Artificial stone benchtops are all the rage. But a lot of tradies don’t realise how dangerous the dust from them can be.
Artificial stone benchtops are all the rage. But a lot of tradies don’t realise how dangerous the dust from them can be. Supplied

The building trend hurting our tradies

AN IMMEDIATE ban has been issued on a common building practice after dozens of new cases of the disease silicosis.

Recent cases of tradies contracting the life-threatening lung disease prompted the Queensland government to announce an immediate ban on dry-cutting artificial stone benchtops.

More than 20 new cases have been reported in the past three weeks alone - including six terminal cases. 

The disease made headlines earlier this year when Shine Lawyers called for doctors to ask young men about their day jobs because of the alarming spike in cases. 

Stemming from the coal miners Black Lung inquiry, the government has also been looking at silicosis risks, and has identified stonemasons dry cutting stone bench tops as being at serious risk of the irreversible condition, which is contracted by breathing in tiny particles of silica dust that settle in the lungs.

RELATED: Question doctors must ask tradies

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace on Tuesday announced dry cutting was now banned following an investigation of 10 workplaces by Workplace Health and Safety.

"The audit uncovered extremely poor work practices - including uncontrolled dry cutting, inadequate ventilation and a lack of personal protection equipment such as respiratory masks," Ms Grace said.

"From this week, there will be 22 specially trained inspectors on the ground conducting audits, with the remaining 150 manufacturers to be audited by the end of the year."

‘I want to make sure no one else has to go through this,’ said Gold Coast stonemason Andrew White.
Andrew White is a Gold Coast stonemason who went public with his diagnosis, urging other tradies to protect themselves.

An urgent safety warning has been issued regarding dry stone-cutting, with the government to develop regulations to explicitly ban the practice.

Engineered stone is becoming more common as a cheaper substitute to marble benchtops, but is made of around 90 per cent crystalline silica, which is one of the major causes of silicosis.

The artificial stone is considered safe if it is only cut when wet.

Ms Grace said WorkCover Queensland had received 26 compensation claims for workers with silicosis; 22 in the last three weeks.

She said that was only in Queensland, and would write to her federal counterpart Kelly O'Dwyer to urge the federal government to expand the ban nationally.