Safe Work Australia has published a checklist and further information to assist in updated workplace exposure standards for respirable crystalline silica.
Introduced in most jurisdictions this year, the Workplace Exposure Standard (WES) for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) has halved from 0.1mg/m³ to 0.05 mg/m³ in the past 12 months.
The updated WES has been implemented in all jurisdictions in Australia except for Western Australia and Tasmania.
Companies that work with materials such as concrete, engineered stones or tiles may be needed to introduce more control measures because of the updated silica levels.
According to information available from Safe Work Australia, new control measures could include local exhaust ventilation, on-tool dust extraction, respiratory protective equipment or wet cutting methods.
Safe Work Australia has published a checklist to ensure employers meet the updated standards.
Crystalline silica is found in materials such as sand, stone, concrete and mortar and is used to make products such as bricks and tiles. The dust particles produced from working with these materials can cause damage to the lungs if inhaled, resulting in health complications such as silicosis.
Safe Work Australia recommends employers assess the risk of silica dust at the workplace, review control measures to minimise the risk of silica dust, arrange air monitoring to measure silica dust levels, review their workers’ health monitoring plan and speak with workers about how the reduced WES may affect the workplace.
The WES for RCS was changed to prevent the adverse health effects that silica dust can cause, including silicosis and lung cancer.
Awareness fact sheets and webinars are also available free of charge from the IQA website.