What are silica and Quartz?
Silica is one of the most common compounds on earth. Silica is composed of two chemical elements: silicon and oxygen (silicon dioxide, SiO2). Silica is found in nature in various forms, mainly as sand, and also as rocks and stones such as marble, granite, quartz and cristobalite. Silica is a component of many manufactured products in daily use, such as glass, pottery and quartz surfaces. Silica is very commonly used in construction and at various concentrations in bricks, blocks, tiles, slabs, cement and concrete.
What are Caesarstone Quartz surfaces?
Caesarstone quartz surfaces are an advanced solution for kitchen countertops, bathroom vanities, flooring, wall cladding and other internal applications. They are manufactured from up to ~90% quartz and high-quality polymer resins and pigments. Caesarstone quartz surfaces are in use today in millions of homes around the world, and in many environments that require the strictest standards of cleanliness and sterility, such as: Twinings Tea Development Laboratories; Assuta Hospital in Tel Aviv; the Starbucks Coffee chain in the USA and Canada; the McDonald’s chain in Australia; and numerous restaurants around the world.
What is Respirable Silica Dust and why is it dangerous?
Fabricating materials that contain quartz generates silica dust particles. Part of the silica dust contains small particles which are “respirable” – that is, breathable – and are tiny enough to bypass the body’s defences and enter the lungs. This can cause irreparable damage to the lungs and can result in silicosis (see below).
What is silicosis?
Exposure to respirable crystalline particles of a very small size (less than 10 microns) may cause silicosis, an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. Silica dust particles become trapped in lung tissue, causing inflammation and scarring and reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. Symptoms of silicosis can include progressive shortness of breath, cough and fatigue. Safety measures including wet processing and the use of effective respiratory protection will reduce the burden of inhaled dust and can prevent the disease.
Can Crystalline silica dust hazards be prevented?
Yes. Exposure to crystalline silica dust and the related risks that may result from such exposure can be reduced and controlled if the proper safety measures are implemented. These measures include, among others, installing proper engineering controls (ventilation and filtration), working with CNC machines and water-injected tools, and using appropriate respiratory protection. You must assess and ensure that occupational exposure to airborne crystalline silica dust is below the Permissible Exposure Limits established by your local authority and regulations. Always apply your local laws and regulations regarding working in environments containing harmful dust.
Who is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of stone fabrication workers?
The stone fabrication plant employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees in all matters related to work in these plants. Stone fabrication plant owners, managers and workers must implement all the required health and safety requirements, which include, among others, air monitoring, use of proper work procedures, engineering controls and PPE, to ensure their workers are properly protected from exposure to silica. The employer and the owner of stone fabrication plants are responsible for providing the workers with all the training, warnings, information, tools and safety means required to protect them from the dangers of exposure to crystalline silica dust and for enforcing the implementation of all safety means by the workers. The workers are responsible for fully implementing the safety instructions. By a joint effort of employers and workers, the workplace can become a healthy environment for everyone.
CAN CAESARSTONE SURFACES BE HARMFUL TO THE END USER AFTER INSTALLATION?
Absolutely not. Caesarstone quartz surfaces are completely safe for domestic use. Silicosis is only an occupational disease resulting from ongoing, unprotected exposure of workers to silica dust.
Can Caesarstone surfaces be harmful during installation?
The health risk lies in the processing procedure of the slabs, if performed not in accordance with health and safety legal requirements. The professional technician performing these processes possesses the knowledge and tools to protect him or herself from the silica dust. As in every place where professional technical work is carried out, no person other than the professional technician should be present near the working area during the performance of this work.
Does Caesarstone meet industry standards for health and environment?
Caesarstone quartz surfaces maintain the most stringent industry standards for health and environment, as listed below, and as presented on the Caesarstone website.
Caesarstone products are compliant with the National Sanitation Foundation International standard, ensuring that our working surfaces are safe for use in all food environments.
All of Caesarstone’s production plants have a certified Environmental Management System in accord with ISO 14001, and a Health & Safety Management System in accord with OHSAS 18001/ISO 45001 (USA).
Caesarstone is a registered member of the USGBC (United States Green Building Council).
Caesarstone surfaces comply with the American GEI (GREENGUARD Environmental Institute) certification, which primarily verifies that Caesarstone’s products meet the most stringent air emission standards.
Caesarstone’s recycled quartz slabs incorporate up to 42% first quality reclaimed quartz from the fabrication process (postproduction recycled). In addition, they incorporate 2%-25% pre-consumer recycled glass and mirrors in different models. Each of these models has an SCS recycled content certificate.
Caesarstone surfaces are kosher due to their low porosity.
What industries work with silica and are exposed to silica dust?
It is important to point out that silica dust is found in many products in our day-to-day lives such as glass, ceramics, semi-conductors and much more.
Working with crystalline silica (quartz) is found in numerous industries including:
- Underground mining, tunneling and excavation work
- Extraction and cutting of quartzite, gneiss, granite, sandstone and slate
- Glass manufacturing plants
- Brick making
- Manufacture of glass, pottery, porcelain, bricks, ceramic tiles, pavers
- Underground mining, tunneling and excavation work
- Road building
- Building construction
- Demolition work where potential sites of silica exist e.g. breaking up concrete
- Explosive blasting work
Can crystalline silica dust hazards be prevented?
Yes. Exposure to crystalline silica dust and the related risks that may result from such exposure can be reduced and controlled if the proper safety measures are implemented. These measures include, among others, installing proper engineering controls (ventilation and filtration), working with CNC machines and water-injected tools, and using appropriate respiratory protection.
You must assess and ensure that occupational exposure to airborne crystalline silica dust is below the Permissible Exposure Limits established by your local authority and regulations. Always apply your local laws and regulations regarding working in environments containing harmful dust.
In order to control and reduce/eliminate the health risks associated with crystalline silica, we recommend that a Silica Control Program be implemented in the workplace in accordance with all the applicable laws, regulations, orders and directives. This program should be reviewed on a regular basis.
It is important to note that the exposure and personal protection precautions are only necessary for the fabrication of Caesarstone products (cutting, sawing, polishing etc.), due to the dust that may be generated in the process, and not from the Caesarstone slab as a product.
The employer is responsible for providing his workers with all the information, tools and safety measures required in order to protect them from the dangers of exposure to silica dust. The workers are responsible for fully implementing the safety instructions. Access to the work area should be restricted to authorized employees only. By a joint effort of the employer and workers, the workplace can become a healthy environment for everyone.
What recommendation does Caesarstone offer to ensure safe working practices?
The objectives of this Guide are to:
Furthermore, the instructions in this Guide are addressed to employers and workers who fabricate Caesarstone slabs and derived products in order to help them control their exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust.
- Reiterate the information about the well-known risks and health hazards during working in an environment where respirable crystalline silica dust is created; and
- Remind you of certain information to assist in reducing workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust, including information on the safe use of products containing crystalline silica in the workplace and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that can be used, if necessary.
It is important to note that the information provided in this Guide does not replace and/or specify all your local laws and regulations, which you must comply with and, therefore, you are required to be familiar with and adhere to all your local laws and regulations and consult with occupational health and safety professionals.
What has Caesarstone done in the past to support safe fabrication methods?
In the ten years since Caesarstone Australia began operations in Australia, we have provided the independent stonemason industry information about the safety measures required to be implemented when working in a silica dust environment.
- Every stonemason customer has been provided with comprehensive instructions via the Caesarstone Fabrication & Health Protection Guide and the Safety Data Sheets.
- The full 104 page guide is available to download throughout this site, with the Health & Safety information contained on pages 82-92.
- Caesarstone supplies each individual slab to stonemasons with the relevant warnings, health and safety information prior to fabrication and installation.
- Conducted a series of workshops along the east coast of Australia, inviting a wide range of stonemasons to attend to receive training and updates on safe working practices.
- Caesarstone staff regularly visit customer work sites & respond to any queries on health and safety.
- All invoices issued contain relevant safety information.
How is Caesarstone continuing to help improve safety practices in the stonemason industry?
Caesarstone is a founding member of the NSW Government Taskforce and the Queensland Government Code of Practice working group. Caesarstone continues to engage with Government Workcover agencies, unions, occupational physicians and the Thoracic Society, industry associations and State Health Departments, to ensure there is ongoing awareness of adequate safety standards and the importance of workplace monitoring.
Caesarstone will continue to actively promote and educate safe handling of our products by stonemasons by implementing the following plans moving forward:
- Further reviewing and communicating our Fabrication & Health Protection Guide
- Forming an industry advisory group to ensure the industry is working closely together on the issue
- Developing a dedicated stonemason information website, including safety videos, to enhance the communication with stonemasons
- Developing an occupational and medical referral list for customers
- Providing customers with Government regulations and guidelines (Federally and for each State)
- Increasing and improving customer communications via regular EDMs
- Conducting further training sessions to stonemasons about health & safety procedures
- Creating extra safety signage for customer work sites
State Governments have expressed a desire to develop a code of practice for industry and regulations that explicitly prohibit uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone and we are actively involved in providing input on that proposal. We welcome these initiatives and note that Caesarstone’s own recommended safety standards have long urged stonemasons to use wet-cutting and proper respiratory protection.
How does Caesarstone protect the safety of its own employees?
Every Caesarstone production line employee receives comprehensive training regarding the safe handling of our products. In addition, safety guidelines are posted clearly throughout our manufacturing facilities. There are no production facilities in Australia as slabs are imported to this country. However, we train our sales staff who visit customer work sites and issue them with safety equipment for use when entering areas where the product is being fabricated.