IMPAC successful in securing ACC Workplace Injury Prevention Grant | Engineered Stone Fabricator RCS Accreditation Programme

15 July, 2020  |  News

Engineered stone benchtops are nowadays a common sight as an attractive and practical workspace for the heart of the NZ home.  However, it is the respirable crystalline silica (RCS), in the form of a very fine dust generated during the fabrication of such products, that is cause for significant concern in the workplace. RCS causes scarring of the tissue leading to silicosis which can cause permanent disability or death and is an emerging health issue overseas.

IMPAC, in conjunction with the New Zealand Engineered Stone Advisory Group, have recognised the opportunity to act now to reduce worker exposure to RCS. Following a rigorous application and interview process, we delighted to have been successful in securing an ACC Workplace Injury Prevention Grant which provides funding for organisations to “support innovation in health and safety and build the capability of the health and safety system to accelerate health and safety improvements.”

The prevalence of the occupational disease (silicosis) has been growing globally with cases increasingly reported across a number of countries since 2009. Much of this has been linked to the growing use of engineered stone. The number of cases of silicosis in New Zealand is currently unknown but it is expected that rates will be comparable with overseas experience. Dr Alexandra Mathu, Chair of the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (NZ) is quoted as saying “While we currently have no one yet diagnosed with the disease, we know there will be at least 100 – 150 workers diagnosed in … (New Zealand) once we start looking.  This is an unprecedented situation.”  

Engineered stone fabrication can be done safely but it requires the right equipment, processes, and training.  The intent of the programme is to build on the good practices a number of fabricators already have in place and set those as a minimum standard across the whole sector.

IMPAC will be working with the NZ Engineered Stone Advisory Group to develop and pilot a New Zealand Engineered Stone Fabricator RCS Accreditation Programme.  This will be supported by other key stakeholders including Worksafe and ACC, and the NZ Occupational Hygiene Society.  Once the pilot has been completed later in 2020 the first round of Fabricator Accreditation Audits will be carried out over the remainder of 2021 and 2022.

 

Worksafe’s Safety Alert (August 2019) on Accelerated Silicosis is available here.

Read WorkSafe Silica Advisory Nov 2019