Tradies are set to have better protection against the deadly lung disease silicosis after state and federal workplace regulators agreed to tighten regulation.
But WorkSafe Victoria has failed in its bid to have the national silica workplace exposure standard lowered to one-fifth of its current level.
State and federal workplace regulators voted in Sydney on Wednesday to halve the current standard from 0.1mg per cubic metre to 0.05mg per cubic metre.
Western Australia and the ACT backed Victoria's bid to bring the limit down to 0.02mg, similar to the standard in the US, but were outnumbered.
Silicosis is caused when materials such as artificial stone benchtops are dry cut and workers inhale tiny particles of silica dust, leading to lung scarring and breathing difficulties.
At least 15 Victorians have died from the condition since 1985 but that number could be higher because deaths are often recorded as lung cancer or auto-immune disease, which can be caused by silicosis.
Ahead of the silicosis meeting on Wednesday, Victoria's Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy was doubtful the state's push would succeed.
"I'm really, really concerned that we will not get a decision out of the Safe Work Australia meeting today that represents the best health evidence," she told reporters.
Ms Hennessy compared the issue to asbestos.
"We must not make that same mistake when it comes to silicosis," the minister said.
Safe Work Australia is expected to write to state and territory governments to ratify the new silicosis standard.
Australian Associated Press