Engineered stone provider fined $375,000 for exposing employee to silica dust

Conviction comes ahead of engineered stone ban in July

Engineered stone provider fined $375,000 for exposing employee to silica dust

An engineered stone provider has been fined $375,000 for exposing an employee to silica dust.

The New South Wales District Court found that Edstein Creative breached the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to minimise an employee's risk of exposure to silica dust for over a six-year and 10-month period.

According to SafeWork NSW, the employee involved took on tasks associated with the installation of engineered stone products, including cutting, grinding, drilling, and polishing.

Edstein Creative pleaded guilty to the charge, which the court considered in reducing the appropriate fine of $500,000.

The court also accepted that the employer is unlikely to reoffend, citing its further focus on employees' health and safety.

"This is not a defendant that had no regard to safety at all – it has systems in place to protect its workers, but there was no enforcement of such policies when the workers went to perform the installation tasks during the relevant period," the court said in its decision.

Cases of silica dust exposure

The proceeding against Edstein is among the first ones commenced by SafeWork NSW in 2021 relating to silica dust exposure at work. In 2023, two other employers were convicted and fined in for also failing to minimise silica dust exposure in the workplace.

"These recent prosecutions demonstrate SafeWork's commitment to ensuring that employers who do not take safety seriously will face consequences," said Head of SafeWork NSW Trent Curtin in a statement.

Exposure to silica dust has been known to cause silicosis, a lung disease that is becoming more prevalent in the engineered stone industry. According to the Occupational Lung Diseases in Australia 2006-2019 Report, there has been a "substantial increase" of engineered stone workers are contracting silicosis.

These findings have prompted New South Wales, other states, territories, and the Commonwealth government to ban engineered stone from July 1.

"The upcoming ban on engineered stone is a significant move in the fight against silicosis and will ensure workers across the state are much safer at work," Curtin said.

"In the meantime, SafeWork Inspectors will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to workers lives being endangered through exposure to deadly crystalline silica dust."

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