WorkSafe Victoria is introducing a licence scheme to protect engineered stone workers. 

Businesses working with engineered stone will require a licence by 15 November 2022 under new regulations.

From May next year, new duties will apply for businesses across a range of industries that work with other materials containing silica – including quarrying, construction and tunnelling.

The regulations will also extend the ban, first made in 2019, on uncontrolled dry-cutting, grinding and polishing of engineered stone, and prohibit the use of compressed air for cleaning and untreated water to suppress dust.

Engineered stone is commonly used for kitchen and bathroom benchtops. When it is cut, ground or polished workers may be exposed to respirable silica dust, which can cause deadly lung and respiratory diseases – including silicosis.

Silicosis is caused by breathing in tiny silica particles which can cause incurable scarring of the lungs. In severe cases it can be fatal or patients may need a lung transplant.

WorkSafe CEO Colin Radford says licensing the use of engineered stone would ensure the necessary safety measures were in place to protect workers.

“Silicosis is a serious disease that can strike down young workers with devastating consequences for them and their families,” Mr Radford said.

“This year alone, WorkSafe has accepted 59 claims from workers who have developed silica related disease as a result of workplace exposure and sadly, four people have lost their lives. This is unacceptable.

“This licence scheme, together with a permanent ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone, will help prevent more workers suffering due to silica exposure.”

Licence holders must comply with new duties, including providing:

  • Safety training and instruction for workers, as well as information to job applicants

  • Health and atmosphere monitoring reports to Worksafe Victoria

  • Departing employees with a record of their work with engineered stone and advice about regular health assessments

Engineered stone suppliers will only be able to supply licenced businesses and must keep records.

Licence applications for working with engineered stone are now open.