A company has been convicted and fined $28,000 for exposing workers to the risk of respirable crystalline silica while manufacturing engineered stone at a Knoxfield factory.
In November last year, Miter Square Pty Ltd was fined $7,000 without conviction in the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to one charge of failing to ensure a workplace under its management and control was safe and without risks to health and one charge of failing to maintain a safe workplace.
Following an appeal, the Melbourne County Court imposed a conviction and increased the fine amount by four times on Friday 17 November.
The company was also ordered to pay costs of $3,750.
In October 2020, a WorkSafe inspector attending the factory observed a worker using a handheld power tool to abrasively polish a slab of engineered stone, without the use of an integrated water delivery system, on-tool extraction system or local exhaust ventilation.
A significant amount of dust covered the floor, horizontal surfaces and objects throughout the factory.
There was also evidence of workers using a high-pressure hose and brooms with bristles to clean up dust at the workplace.
During a subsequent visit, the company’s director informed WorkSafe inspectors that workers relied on respiratory protective equipment to control the risk of exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
However, none of the respirators at the workplace complied with the regulations, including one that had no filter and another that was found to have the wrong type of particulate filter, which was also full of dust.
An investigation later found that a sample of engineered stone seized by inspectors at the workplace had a crystalline silica content of 82 per cent.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the potential health outcomes from exposure to crystalline silica dust can be catastrophic.
“No one should be put at risk of contracting an incurable and often deadly disease like silicosis for simply doing their job,” Dr Beer said.
“Victorian employers have specific obligations to protect those working with engineered stone and WorkSafe will not hesitate to use every tool at its disposal to ensure they comply.”