The New South Wales Mine Safety Advisory Council is striving to wipe away the threat of dust at mines and quarries through a new awareness campaign, as the state ramps up its crackdown on dust exposure.
Employing the slogan “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it is not there”, the new campaign aims to educate workers about dust prevention measures. It notes that dust particles that appear in mining operations are 100 times smaller than a grand of sand and can lead to several diseases including silicosis and lung cancer.
According to NSW Mine Safety Advisory Council chairman George Souris AM, the awareness campaign has the ability to show mines and quarries how they can stay safe and prevent dust-related health issues.
“Quarries and mines can be dusty places to work and this campaign will hopefully help workers and contractors better understand the health impacts of dust and how workers can help take steps to ensure their own personal safety as well as that of their mates,” Souris said.
“Exposure to harmful dust and dust disease is preventable when appropriate safety measures are in place. This includes the mine or quarry itself but also workers making safety a number one priority through awareness and prevention.
“It can be many years or in some cases even decades before these diseases manifest themselves. So stop, think and be safe at work.”
The campaign provides insights from health and safety, and industry officials, along with an online toolkit .
This is one of many ways the NSW government is aiming to tackle dust-related diseases, after the state introduced a list of new reforms on 1 July, including the new respirable crystalline silica (RCS) Workplace Exposure Standard of 0.05mg/m³. NSW is one of the first states to introduce this minimum standard.
The state government has revised its Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants (WESFAC), with mines and petroleum sites having to log any dust that surpasses the new standard.
“Silicosis is an incredibly painful and aggressive disease, but it is also preventable,” NSW Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said. “We are taking every step possible to protect workers in NSW from being exposed to lethal levels of silica.
“Making silicosis a notifiable disease is the next step in our journey to stamp out silicosis cases in this state.
“Once NSW Health notifies SafeWork NSW of cases, our inspectors can target their compliance and enforcement efforts based on each diagnosed individual’s current or previous workplaces and ultimately prevent further cases.”
Anderson said uncontrolled dry cutting and stone grinding of manufactured stone is now banned in the state, with companies that breach this reform facing a maximum $30,000 fine.
“We know dry cutting is a key cause of silica exposure, and it’s highly preventable by wet cutting or using the right dust capturing measures,” he said.
“Thanks to this comprehensive compliance program, including on-the-spot fines, a reduction in the exposure standard and the requirement to notify silicosis cases, we will put a stop to the increase in cases and ensure that people in NSW are protected.”
The IQA has also being doing its part to educate quarry workers on the threat of RCS. For a fact sheet, visit quarry.com.au