Tasmania records first silicosis-related WHS prosecution

Tasmania records first silicosis-related WHS prosecution

A stonemasonry business in Hobart has pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety legislation after workers were exposed to the risk of silicosis.

Heritage Stone Pty Ltd has pleaded guilty to one count of failing to comply with health and safety duties. 

It will be the first successful prosecution in the state of Tasmania for engineered stone silica-related WHS offences and only the second prosecution in Australia. 

There was a second charge against the company and another against the director, which were both dismissed. 

WorkSafe Tasmania has alleged the company exposed six workers at its site in Cambridge, in addition to off-site work, to the risk of inhaling silica dust that could expose them to death or injury by way of developing silicosis. 

The work of the employees included the wet and dry cutting of stone products, largely for kitchen benchtops. 

WorkSafe alleges the business failed to take measures to minimise the workers’ exposure to RCS by: 

  • failing to isolate worksites with temporary screens
  • failing to display signs alerting of the risk of RCS exposure
  • failing to provide an isolated areas for fabricating benchtops using stone, including by installing a dedicated dry isolation extraction booth that would reduce or eliminate airborne contaminants, including RCS
  • failing to prevent the use of vacuum cleaners, high-pressure air and brooms to dust off floors, work clothes, tools and off-cuts from benches
  • failing to adopt wet processes and wet hand tools instead of dry processes, including dry-cutting and grinding methods
  • failing to ensure use of P3-rated masks at all times when producing stone products
  • failing to conduct health monitoring to ensure workers weren’t exposed to risk of inhaling RCS
  • failing to monitor the health of workers when it was possible to carrying out dust monitoring for air contaminants, especially RCS

The company will face sentencing on December 21.

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