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Dust risk on the radar of NSW regulators

Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA) has contacted the New South Wales industry regulator to better understand the basis for a ‘state-wide blitz’ on dust risk exposure.

On 26 September, the NSW Resource Regulator unexpectedly announced a three-week targeted intervention program to examine how operators are managing dust risks, with a particular focus on controls and monitoring measures.

Resources Regulator chief inspector of mines Garvin Burns told Quarry quarries across NSW could expect teams of inspectors to turn up at the front gate for inspections without notice. It comes after a review of dust monitoring results reported by mine operators indicated some quarry workers were being exposed to dust at levels well above legal limits.

“Our inspectors will look at whether quarry operators are identifying dust risks and putting in place subsequent controls to protect workers,” Burns said. “Operators need to ensure that they are not simply relying on personal protective equipment and have taken other active measures to eliminate or reduce dust exposure risks.”

At present, nine sites have been assessed, with three improvement notices issued for dust management practices. Several have been issued in relation to non-compliances for the management of other hazards.

Burns said dust diseases, such as silicosis, were preventable and required appropriate dust controls, atmospheric monitoring and worker health monitoring.

“We know quarries by their very nature can be dusty places to work and this compliance campaign will be directly testing to see if quarry operators have appropriate controls in place to protect the health of their workers from this risk.

“[Inspectors] will carry out sampling of inhalable dust and then examine what actions quarry operators have taken where excessive dust is identified, including notifying those exceedances to the regulator.

“Where inspectors form the view that workers may be exposed to serious risk due to a lack of effective risk controls for inhalable dust, appropriate compliance action will be taken to protect the safety of those workers.”


CCAA’s response

Following the announcement, CCAA CEO Ken Slattery told Quarry his organisation was engaging with the NSW Resource Regulator to better understand the basis of its increased focus on compliance with workplace exposure standards for respirable dust.

“CCAA members are aware of the risks to workers’ health of excessive dust exposure and their obligations to manage this important aspect of their obligations.

“Guidance material produced by CCAA such as the Workplace Health & Safety Guideline – Management of Respirable Crystalline Silica in Quarries, published in September 2018, provides quarry operators with clear and practical guidance on managing this risk. CCAA will continue to support the industry to manage its obligations in this regard.”

Burns said the resources regulator had communicated directly with the CCAA about its intent to commence the intervention and has since met with a CCAA representative to discuss the reasons for it.



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