Talostone® Silicosis statement

BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE
FUTURE FOR THE STONE INDUSTRY

There has been a lot of discussion in media and industry circles recently about mineral surfaces and its potential impact on stonemasons and fabricators who cut the product prior to installing it in homes and offices around the country.

As one of the leading players in the industry, it is imperative that Talostone® expresses its position on the matter and addresses some of the negative (and somewhat misleading) commentary that has been swirling around.

Firstly, let us state that we are 100 per cent committed to a safe working environment for all stakeholders in the industry. This has been our number one priority since we first opened our doors in Sydney 10 years ago in 2013. The health and safety of workers is a non-negotiable matter for us.

It is also important to point that all existing installed bench tops and vanities are entirely safe and pose absolutely no risk to anyone. Additionally, mineral surfaces can, and indeed should, be cut safely at all times by stonemasons following the right procedures and using the right equipment.

This position is supported by all Australian governments who are responsible for regulating the legal requirements for safe workplace practices adopted by those cutting mineral surfaces. Their businesses are legally required to adhere to these rigorous work practices to minimise the risk of crystalline silica being released into the air during the production process.

At Talostone®, we only ever recommend stonemasons who adhere to these strict standards when it comes to cutting stone, which includes wet-cutting to suppress dust. We always provide these firms with a copy of a comprehensive health and safety manual (also listed on our website), as well as detailed guidelines about the safe practices to adopt when cutting mineral surfaces. We also feature warning labels on all our products to highlight the potential risk.

Unfortunately, it is clear some workplaces in Australia have failed to adhere to these standards, placing a small group of workers at risk of respiratory conditions such as silicosis caused by prolonged exposure to crystalline silica dust released during the cutting process.

Steps have increasingly been taken by governments around Australia over the past few years to improve compliance inspections, but it is clear more needs to be done to create a nationwide approach to the issue of cutting mineral surfaces, combined with more rigorous and enforceable compliance activities that ensure stonemasons adhere to the right standards to protect workers.

Meanwhile, some people have pushed for a ban on mineral surfaces. However, this will not solve the issue of silicosis in Australia and would only result in widespread job losses across the country.

This spurious suggestion fails to appreciate that silica is present in a broad range of products in everyday life including natural stone, bricks, concrete and sandstone – which means those working in the tunnelling, excavation and construction sectors would have to cease operations if such a ban was put in place.

Rather, what is needed is a consistent nationwide approach to the issue. Talostone® welcomes the proposed national review to be undertaken by the Federal Government across all products and industries exposed to crystalline silica dust.

As a responsible company, we are fully committed to doing more to ensure workers are protected as much as possible. As a result, we are pleased to announce we are working on a new product range featuring a maximum of 40% crystalline silica. This range, which will still offer the same high level of choice, quality and durability for consumers, is further evidence of Talostone’s® ongoing commitment to do all we can to support the health and safety of the industry.

We are confident this initiative, coupled with the elimination of any remaining unsafe cutting practices among stonemasons, will provide an even greater level of confidence to workers and offer peace of mind to customers who choose Talostone® as their preferred product of choice.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Engineered surfaces are an advanced solution for kitchen countertops, bathroom vanities, flooring, wall cladding and other internal applications. They are typically manufactured from natural mineral and high‐quality polymer resins and pigments. Quartz surfaces are in use today in millions of homes and businesses around Australia and the rest of the world.

Silica is one of the most common compounds on earth and is composed of two elements: silicon and oxygen (silicon dioxide, SiO2). Silica is found in nature in various forms, mainly as sand, and also in rocks and stones such as marble and granite. Silica is a component of many products in daily use including glass, pottery and mineral surfaces. Silica is very commonly used in construction and features at various concentrations in bricks, blocks, tiles, slabs, cement and concrete.

Mineral surfaces products such as countertops in kitchens and bathrooms and wall linings have been in high demand for Australian homes, buildings and commercial operations for over 20 years. They provide a very durable, long-lasting and attractive solution for surfaces.
Talostone® and other reputable manufacturers create mineral surfaces to strict safety standards and the products must comply with Government regulations in all states and territories. Our products are safe in all commercial and domestic settings and we are deeply committed to doing all we can to ensure the fabricators and stonemasons who use our products do so in accordance with the safety regulations which have been in place for many years.
Not at all. These surfaces are safe for consumer use and meet the stringent health and safety regulations of every state and territory in Australia. The health risk lies in the cutting process managed by stonemasons and fabricators if they do not follow regulated installation and safety guidelines. This includes, but is not limited to, wet cutting and the use of effective respiratory protection measures to reduce any risks associated with inhaled crystalline dust.
It is important to point out that crystalline silica dust is found in many products in our day‐to‐day lives such as glass, ceramics, semi‐conductors and much more. Natural mineral contains 90% or more crystalline silica which is present in manufacturing lines as a raw material and in dust derived from the fabrication processes which are required to turn the mineral surfaces into kitchen and bath countertops (cut‐to‐size per installation by independent stonemasons). Silicosis and other respiratory diseases are caused by prolonged occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica during the fabrication of products containing crystalline silica. However, fabricators can avoid being exposed to the dust by following government mandated safety procedures. Safety is a top priority for Talostone® and we provide comprehensive health and safety guidelines to all those who purchase our products.
Both artificial and natural cut stone produce crystalline silica dust and fabricators and stonemasons work with many raw products that produce crystalline silica dust during cutting and polishing. Stonemasons can avoid the risks of silicosis by following the recommended safety procedures and guidelines.
The Talostone® Fabrication & Installation, Safety & Health Protection Guide for cutting and installing Talostone® is provided to all customers, along with safety warnings clearly displayed on all products. In addition, our products comply with the strictest international and local safety standards mandated in every Australian state or territory.
As these tradespeople are independent contractors, manufacturers such as Talostone® have no direct responsibility for their workplace operations. Workplace safety regulations are the responsibility of Australian governments, but we do all we can to provide instructions and warnings for safe handling and fabrication of products in the interest of the safety and welfare of all fabricators and stone masons.

Talostone® manufactures products to the highest safety standards, Our mineral surfaces products
are absolutely safe prior to fabrication and after installation. Our employees do not fabricate the products, but do receive comprehensive training on safe
handling and are issued safety equipment for use when entering workplaces where the product is
being cut.

Yes. We continue to fully support the improvements in safety regulations and workplace
inspections and anticipate further steps will be taken by Federal and state governments to reduce
the risk of silicosis across all exposed industries.

We are working on a new full product range with a maximum of 40% or less crystalline silica than
currently available and will be launching this range in coming months.

A small amount of silica dust is sometimes produced during installation or repair of stone surfaces in a consumer’s home. This poses no health threat as silicosis and other diseases caused by crystalline silica dust develop only as a result of ongoing occupational exposure to silica dust and in circumstances where the correct safety procedures are not followed. Silicosis is purely an occupational disease.
No. The installed products are absolutely safe and the only risk is to occupational tradespersons who do not follow the correct safety procedures.
We are aware of this activity and reiterate that exposure to silicosis can be eliminated if the correct safety procedures and guidelines are followed while fabricating mineral surfaces products. Safety is a top priority for manufacturers and we educate tradespersons and our employees about the safest ways to deal with our products.
All manufacturing processes have risk factors and consequently safety regulations. Banning products does not make sense, particularly when, in our industry for example, there are clear health safety regulations mandated by all governments. Banning our product would cost many jobs throughout the industry and would not solve the silicosis risk across a range of products and industries.
We take advice from workplace experts, such as Safe Work Australia and its equivalent state organisations, which have conducted extensive research and implemented tougher guidelines for the prevention of silicosis in all work environments. As a result, every government in Australia has regulations in place to eliminate or minimise generating silica dust in the workplace. All cases of infection that we are aware of occurred in independent workplaces that did not follow the regulated safety procedures.
No. We understand there are widespread concerns about the silica issue and we are prepared to lower the crystalline silica content without compromising the quality of our products. At the end of the day, health and safety regulations, coupled with enforcement, are the keys to controlling silicosis.