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Last month, a new compliance code was issued in Victoria for employees who manufacture, supply or work with engineered stone.

The compliance code ensures that employers are aware of best practice when it comes to reducing the risk of exposure to crystalline silica in the workplace. Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring mineral found in most rock forms. Engineered stone in particular, can contain between 80-95 per cent crystalline silica. When this engineered stone is cut, ground or polished, fine dust is released into the air and can become inhaled deep into the lungs. This inhalation can lead to health consequences such as silicosis, lung cancer, kidney and autoimmune disease.

Engineered stone is commonly used to make kitchen or bathroom benchtops. This construction requires the stone to be cut to shape with high speed power tools, meaning that dust particles can be released into the air and inhaled without proper control measures.

Silicosis is an irreversible disease that results in scarring of the lung tissue and can occur either after short exposure to high levels of silica dust or long-term exposure to lower levels. The scarring of the lung tissue can lead to the requirement of a lung transplant or even death. Recently, there has been an increase in identified cases of silicosis, particularly among those who work with engineered stone. This increase in cases has necessitated the Victorian Government and other state governments to implement strict legislation for the industry.


Employers whose workplaces handle engineered stone, must provide a safe environment for their employees.

Under Part 4.1 (Hazardous substances) of the OHS Regulations, employers must:

  • Control the risks associated with exposure as far as is reasonably practicable
  • Review and revise measures to control risks on a regular basis
  • Ensure that employees are not exposed to crystalline silica dust at levels above the workplace exposure standard. The national exposure standard for crystalline silica is 0.05mg/m3 time weighted average (TWA) however WorkSafe Victoria recommends that employees are not exposed to more than 0.02mg/m3 TWA. Read more about the exposure standard here.
  • Carry out air monitoring and health monitoring when required

Power Tools

In August 2019, amendments came into effect to protect Victorian employees working with engineered stone. These amendments included a ban on uncontrolled dry cutting. All workplaces who work with engineered stone must not use a power tool for cutting, grinding or abrasive polishing unless the use is controlled.

Using a power tool to cut, grind or polish engineered stone is considered controlled if:

  • There is an integrated water delivery system which projects a continuous stream of water when the tool is in use
  • An on-tool dust extraction system is connected to a Dust Class H vacuum which captures all dust generated
  • There is adequate exhaust ventilation if the above two measures are not reasonably practicable

In addition, anyone cutting, grinding or polishing engineered stone must be provided with respiratory protective equipment that is properly fitted.

It is important to note that poor housekeeping can become a secondary source of exposure when built up dust is disturbed. Any dry-sweeping, wind movement or human interference can disturb settled dust or dust from slurry solutions that has become dry.

Health Monitoring

Regular health monitoring is essential for people who work with engineered stone. This includes employees directly involved in processing tasks, as well as supervisors, office and sales staff, labourers, cleaning and maintenance staff and forklift operators. Anyone who works in the vicinity of the cutting, grinding or polishing of engineered stone must have their health monitored regardless of whether they have cut the stone themselves.

For more information about the health monitoring, please click here.

WorkSafe Victoria’s compliance code can be accessed here.


  1. WorkSafe Victoria 2020, Compliance code: Managing exposure to crystalline silica – engineered stone

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