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Silica Information

What is silica?

Silica (silicon dioxide), is an oxide of silicon with the chemical formula SiO2, commonly found in nature as quartz. In many parts of the world, silica is the major constituent of sand. Silica is abundant as it is commonly found in nature as quartz which makes up over 10% of the earth’s crust.

95% of the silica used worldwide is used for concrete but silica is also the primary ingredient in the production of most glass. Silica is found in almost all building materials from tiles to concrete to bricks and also natural stones and granites.

Quartz is one of the hardest and most stable and abundant minerals on earth with a MOH’s hardness rating of 7 making it ideal for use in kitchen benchtops.

Brief history of use in Engineered Stone benchtops

Engineered stone has been produced and sold around the world since the early 1990s and has been a popular kitchen benchtop material in Australia since the early 2000s. Silicosis was recognised by the industry as a potential hazard since its inception and safe work protocols have existed for all stone materials during their period of use. Most engineered stone has typically had a 90-95% quartz (silica) content though since 2020 suppliers have been moving to produce colours that contain between 5-40% silica content. The silica content in these materials has been replaced by other minerals such as feldspar which also has very good properties for high quality benchtops but does not produce crystalline silica when ground or cut.

Edstein working with Engineered Stone

Edstein is a leading fabricator of stone within Australia, committed to providing a safe and sustainable environment, not only to our employees and contractors but to our clients and the greater community.

We take immense pride in leading the industry, with SafeWork NSW partnering with Edstein to raise silica awareness. SafeWork filmed their series of silica training and awareness videos at our manufacturing facility. 

Over the years, as awareness and technology has involved, Edstein has always been proactive with heavily investing in the latest and safest equipment, not only in machinery but in PPE, training, private practice health monitoring, air monitoring and building new facilities to ensure the safety of our team.

Edstein shares the same concerns about the health and safety of the fabrication of engineered stone, as highlighted within the industry and media, and has long been an advocate to improve and sustain our industry.

Edstein fabricates and provides the installation of stone, including engineered stone. We endeavor to ensure a systematic approach to managing health and safety risks associated with crystalline silica. Manufacturing safely within a controlled environment, adhering to the strictest of workplace practices, including machine wet-cutting to suppress dust. The finished product of engineered stone is completely safe to transport and once installed poses no risk to the end user

Engineered stone can be cut safely, provided the right hierarchy controls, equipment and procedures are followed.

All Edstein products with potential risk are identified within our Workplace Health & Safety Management System and our Respirable Crystalline Silica Management Plan. Both of which are available on request, and we encourage our clients to visit our facility to understand how dust suppression and safety are a priority of our business.

Edstein are confident these initiatives, coupled with the elimination of any remaining unsafe cutting practices, will provide an even greater level of confidence to our community, and offer peace of mind to customers who choose stone as their preferred product of choice.

Engineered stone can be cut safely, provided the right hierarchy controls, equipment and procedures are followed.

All Edstein products with potential risk are identified within our Workplace Health & Safety Management System and our Respirable Crystalline Silica Management Plan. Both of which are available on request, and we encourage our clients to visit our facility to understand how dust suppression and safety are a priority of our business.

Edstein are confident these initiatives, coupled with the elimination of any remaining unsafe cutting practices, will provide an even greater level of confidence to our community, and offer peace of mind to customers who choose stone as their preferred product of choice.

FAQ

Edstein manages the risk of silica exposure to its factory team by taking the following precautions:

  • All manufacturing is completely wet throughout the process through our factory. 
  • Edstein enforces strictly no dry cutting anywhere, ever! No Exceptions.
  • We utilise the latest in European technology. Edstein boasts an array of the best saws, CNCs and polishing equipment available on the market and is constantly looking at what investments is required to stay ahead of the industry.
  • Being a wet manufacturing process, water suppresses and captures the dust, processing it through our water filtration system, forming sludge bricks to be safely disposed. Our water is then cleaned and recycled to be used again throughout the factory.
  • Our manufacturing team are extensively trained in silica safety.
  • All production team members are provided, and must use, a 3M battery powered positive pressure full face air filtered mask as recommended by Safe Work Australia.
  • All our bins and waste disposal system operate under water sprinkler systems, suppressing dust and minimising exposure to any team members during waste disposal.
  • Our factory surfaces are cleaned regularly throughout the day to ensure dust cannot collect and become a hazard.

Edstein manages the risk of silica exposure to its clients and onsite installation teams by taking the following precautions:

  • Our Check Measure Team will measure your project using the latest in electronic measuring equipment to ensure precise and accurate measurements, synchronising directly with our machinery to eliminate the need to cut or grind any stone onsite.
  • Individual pieces are washed with fresh clean water to ensure they are dust free once leaving the factory.
  • Prior to commencing any work, a Risk Assessment is performed by our installation team to identify any potential hazard to you, the client, and themselves throughout the installation.
  • Our installation team will provide you with an overview of the work that will be performed to ensure you are comfortable.
  • Any minor alterations, drilling or polishing, where possible, will be taken outside your house and performed in a well-ventilated controlled area with suitable equipment and PPE.
  • Our installation teams are equipped with the latest tools and equipment to safely perform basic polishing and alterations onsite. This includes water suppression equipment for any dust and the ability to capture stone dust spoil for safe disposal.
  • Our installation team are extensively trained in silica safety and are provided, and must use, a 3M battery powered positive pressure full face air filtered mask as recommended by Safe Work Australia.
  • Very rarely should there be a need to make alterations or drill stone inside your home. Should there be a special circumstance, or a repair required, where alterations or drilling is only possible where the benchtop is located, you will be consulted on what measures need to be put in place to create a controlled environment to perform the work required. These controls will include you and your family not being present in the workspace and the installation team isolating the area and controlling and disposing of the dust.
  • Our team members are extensive trained in essential housekeeping to ensure your house is left neat, tidy and dust free.
  • Our team will notify you once the work has been completed, ask you to inspect their work and the area to ensure you are happy with your benchtops, happy your house has been left clean and no further cleaning is required.

While small amounts of silica dust may be produced during installation, it is captured and controlled as part of the process, and thus poses no health risk for silicosis and other diseases caused by silica dust. Our atmospheric testing conducted by Occupational Hygienist on our installation team has found that these exposure levels are well below the SafeWork recommended levels during our installation process.  

Engineered stone surfaces are completely safe once installed and comply with the strictest local and international and national safety standards for consumer use.

The health risk lies in the manufacture and installation process. All stonemasons must follow the recommended installation and safety guidelines provided by Safework Australia.

The Code of Practice – Managing the risks of respirable crystalline silica from engineered stone in the workplace, issued by SafeWork NSW in February 2022 states:

Engineered stone that is already installed in the home or workplace is not a risk to health unless it is disturbed through mechanical processes such as cutting, sanding, grinding, drilling or polishing.

Edstein works in conjunction with a private medical health provider to monitor all workers who manage stone. Annual lung function testing and imaging is undertaken to ensure worker health is monitored and no lung irritation is occurring. Edstein also carries out air quality atmospheric testing both in the factory and in the field to ensure no worker is exposed. By working with leading Occupational Physicians, therapists and hygienists Edstein works to instill confidence within our team that they are working in a safe environment with no risk to their health.

We recommend always using a licensed tradesperson, stonemason, or building company when removing your stone benchtop. 

The link below takes you to the Housing Industry Association web page which outlines advice for safe removal of engineered stone benchtops.

Safe Removal of Engineered Stone Benchtops

The safety of our clients and team is taken very seriously at Edstein. We want to ensure you have full confidence when collaborating with us on your next project. Please do not hesitate to contact our team, we are happy to walk you through our processes and answer any question that you may have. 

Downloads

More Information

For more information on silica safety please visit Safe Work Australia’s silica safety page:

Or contact our customer service team using the link below: