By NZISM Secretary
WorkSafe, ACC and the Ministry of Health have been working collaboratively with health professionals in the national Dust Diseases Taskforce to understand and respond to the emerging risk to engineered stone workers of exposure to respiratory crystalline silica (RCS). RCS can cause accelerated silicosis, a potentially serious lung disease. This has been seen overseas in those working with engineered (i.e. artificial) stone used in the benchtop industry.
From September 2020, the health assessment pathway is in place to support the delivery of consistent prevention, assessment and treatment services across the country. If workers are at risk of developing disease due to exposure to RCS, they can go through a pathway for assessment, diagnosis and support that starts with a visit to a General Practitioner. ACC will assess a person if they meet the accelerated silicosis exposure threshold and ACC eligibility criteria.
WorkSafe inspectors have begun visiting businesses and workers known to work with engineered stone. An estimated 530 people are currently working with engineered stone in New Zealand. Inspectors will be ensuring effective control measures are in place and encouraging people who have worked with engineered stone for at least six months in the last 10 years to visit their GP for assessment.
There is more information about accelerated silicosis, controlling silica dust and the health assessment pathway on the following websites:
General Manager Health and Technical Services