Apprentices at Victorian TAFE courses are allegedly being taught how to dry cut sandstone despite the material containing high levels of potentially deadly silica dust. The practice of dry cutting was banned in the state in 2019.
The manager of a marble and granite business said she was ‘disgusted’ to learn of the practices her apprentices were exposed to at the government-supported facility, Holmesglen TAFE.
The woman has written to both federal and state governments in an attempt to establish why one student was found without a mask. Additionally, another student was supplied a mask which was later found not to be P2 filtered.
WorkSafe Victoria has confirmed it is investigating the incident.
The woman explained that she was “furious. We have a duty of care to ensure our boys’ safety at work and if they go to TAFE and breathe this silica in and get silicosis as a result, then who is going to pay for them when they are diagnosed and or dying?”
Currently, employers are required to pay for air monitoring and health assessments in line with regulator requirements.
Associate Dean of Building, Construction and Trades at Holmesglen, Elizabeth Jansz, said the health and safety of students and staff was the educator’s top priority.
“We take these incidents very seriously,” she said. “We are doubling down on our safe-work practices by providing more training, increasing supervision and installing more safety equipment.”
It’s believed that the facility only dry cuts stone that requires ornate carving for historical restorations. The facility inducts apprentices and briefs them on the appropriate safety equipment. The facility is also acquiring vacuum-assisted tools.