Half a million dollar fine over three staff diagnosed with silicosis

Half a million dollar fine over three staff diagnosed with silicosis

A Tasmanian company that manufactures stone benchtops has been fined a massive $500,000 following silicosis diagnoses in three of its workers, attributed to silica exposure at their place of employment.

Heritage Stone, operating out of Cambridge, was sentenced this week after entering guilty pleas for failing to comply with a health and safety duty that exposes a worker to the risk of death or serious injury or illness.

In court, it was heard that WorkSafe Tasmania was notified in November of 2018 of concerns about unsafe work practices at the workshop. In a statement issued following sentencing, WorkSafe said that workers were exposed to unsafe levels of respirable crystalline silica.

They explained further, saying that there was “generally poor workplace awareness of the risk the dust posed” despite the presence of safety data sheets and warning labels relating to the hazards. In addition, there was no record of air monitoring at the site or health monitoring of staff.

WorkSafe Tasmania’s executive director Robyn Pearce said that the illnesses the staff were diagnosed with were “completely preventable”, and she implored businesses to focus on safety to ensure that everyone “returns home safely every day”.

“The risk of harming workers by exposing them to respirable crystalline silica dust when working with engineered stone was clear,” she said.

“The systems for managing the risk are well known: wet cutting, air monitoring, health monitoring, proper protective equipment, and making sure workers are trained, supervised and informed about how to keep themselves safe.”

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