BOHS Issues Urgent Guidance to Prevent Kitchen Worktop Manufacture Disease Outbreak

The British Occupational Hygiene Society, a leading scientific body and the UK’s Chartered body for Workplace Health Protection has issued specific guidance for anyone working with stone worktops on how to stay safe, healthy and legal.

The move comes in the face of a cluster of younger kitchen worktop finishers contracting aggressive forms of silicosis. This follows a pattern seen around the world of the crippling disease afflicting 30-40 year old men working in the kitchen fitting and fabrication industry and leading to the need for urgent surgery, including heart and lung transplants. UK ‘set for rapid rise in cases’ of fatal lung disease linked to kitchen revamps ( The disease is caused by inhaling tiny particles  of silica, a naturally occurring chemical in rock, created when stone and artificial stone is cut, ground or polished.

In Australia, up to one in four workers working with artificial stone for kitchen surfaces were reported to have symptoms of the disease, leading artificial stone worktops being banned. Similar measures are being contemplated in North America.

“Silicosis is a disease we have known about for thousands of years and is easily prevented,” says Parmjit Gahir, the Society’s President and a former HSE Specialist Inspector. “However, many workplaces, especially SMEs don’t take very basic steps to stop massive exposure which causes irreversible lung disease. We’ve heard anecdotal evidence from Australia of a worker whose lungs were so stiffened by dust inhalation, including silica dust, that an attempted lung transplant had to be abandoned. I imagine that the latest cluster of cases will lead to prosecutions happening across the UK as our regulator focuses on this bad outcome.”

The Society does not advocate a ban on artificial stone itself, but wants to raise awareness amongst workers in kitchen materials fabrication and installation that they run high risk of serious long-term health issues when using engineered stone, natural stone, wood and laminate. When installing kitchens, kitchen installers also are likely to encounter hidden asbestos as well.

“Engineered stone shines a light on the risks that are out there for the people who work to add value and aesthetics to our homes. This cluster of workers who are young when disabling illness hits are the tip of the iceberg,” says BOHS CEO, Professor Kevin Bampton. “Natural stone can contain silica, although less than some engineered stone brands, but wood dust is a cancer-causing agent, as well as some substances in laminate. Every year thousands of workers in the industry will be affected by illness that means they need to leave work younger and they are not fit enough to enjoy life. We hope that by providing guidance on how to control the risks and to stay within the law, we can help businesses to manage their risks, while keeping workers safe.”

The guidance, which is free to download can be found, at: