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Reduced Silica Exposure Standard Now In Force - Vic

December 19, 2019

HIA notified members on 11 December 2019 that Australian State and Territory Work Health and Safety Ministers have now agreed to reduce the exposure standard for Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) from the current value of 0.1 mg/m3 to 0.05 mg/m3. Click here for a copy of this member alert.

The exposure standard refers to the airborne concentration of RCS that must not be exceeded. The Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 prohibit exposing employees to an atmospheric concentration of RCS above the exposure standard.

In a media release today the Andrews Government announced the introduction of the new national exposure standard, and also announced that the lowered exposure standards came into effect in Victoria from 17 December 2019.

HIA has approached the Attorney General and Minister for Workplace Safety seeking a phase-in period before the change is enforced to allow a reasonable length of time for members to reassess and update their operations to comply with the new exposure standard but has been advised that the commencement date remains at 17th December 2019.

Whilst HIA recognises that there is significant concern regarding the recent spike in the diagnosis of silicosis to workers exposed to silica in the engineered stone bench top industry and the need for action to minimise worker exposure in this part of industry, we are disappointed by the response that there will be no phase in period.

The new exposure standard will apply to many other construction activities involving working with sand, concrete, concrete products, autoclaved aerated concrete, bricks, tiles, etc., that could potentially generate silica but for which a spike of cases of silicosis has not been evident. Unlike Victoria, other states have recognised this and allowed for phase in periods.

Whilst it is largely unrealistic to ensure that compliance with the new standard can be achieved quickly, Members should be aware of the commencement date and should undertake appropriate action to comply with it.

For more information: please contact Tony Lopez, Assistant Director Occupational Health and Safety on 03 9280 8200.