Queensland’s Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace has approved the state’s new code of practice for managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in construction and manufacturing of construction elements.
The new code is Australia’s first silica dust code of practice for the construction industry. It applies to all construction work as well as the manufacturing of materials such as bricks, blocks, tiles, mortar and concrete.
The code outlines how duty holders can meet the requirements of Queensland’s work health and safety legislation, including eliminating or minimising exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) at work by:
- using tried and tested dust control methods that prevent silica dust from being generated or being released into the air, including water suppression and on-tool dust extraction
- using appropriate respirable protective equipment to safeguard at-risk workers
- using exposure data from air monitoring to check dust controls are effective
- providing health monitoring to at-risk workers, with clearly defined triggers for testing based on level of risk
- consulting with workers, as well as training, education, instruction and supervision of workers.
The Code was developed in close consultation with workers, employers and technical experts across Queensland, building on international best practice to ensure silica dust is managed safely and workers are protected in the construction industry and the manufacturing of construction materials.
Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in many building materials, such as bricks, blocks, pavers, tiles and mortar; concrete and cement, including products such as fibre-cement sheeting and autoclaved-aerated concrete; as well as most rocks, sands, and clays.
Tasks such as cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, polishing, scabbling or crushing materials that contain crystalline silica can generate RCS.
RCS particles are so small they cannot be seen under ordinary lighting and stay airborne long after larger particles have settled to the ground – the small particle size means it is easily inhaled deep into the lungs (<10 µm).
The Code commences on 1 May 2023. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) will be promoting the new Code throughout Queensland before it commences.
Further information on the role of approved codes of practice in Queensland is provided in the Foreword to the Code.