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Silica Exposure Standard Halved - Vic

December 11, 2019

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.

The exposure standard is 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.

This matter has been under consideration by Safe Work Australia for 12 months and HIA has been representing member views during this time, calling for the impacts of lowering the exposure standard to be comprehensively assessed before making a decision to reduce the standard. 

HIA recognises that there is significant concern regarding the recent spike in the diagnosis of silicosis to workers exposed to RCS particularly in the engineered stone bench top industry and the need for Governments to be putting in place actions to minimise workers exposure. However the consequences of any proposed actions need to be understood before being implemented, and there also needs to be time for industry to adapt to the changes. 

Implementation and Commencement

Safe Work Australia has announced they will publish the revised exposure standard on 16 December 2019. Currently it is expected to become effective in Victoria from this date. 
HIA has approached the Attorney General to seek urgent consideration of a phase in period to allow a reasonable length of time for members to reassess and update their operations to comply with the new exposure standard. HIA understands that other states and territories will be having a phase in period and we believe Victoria should also proceed in this way.  Further advice on this matter will be provided in due course when we have a response. 

The new exposure standard will apply to all activities that could potentially generate RCS. This will include but not be limited to working with a broad range of building materials such as sand, concrete and concrete products, autoclaved aerated concrete, bricks, tiles, etc. The common tasks in working with these products that may generate RCS such as cutting, drilling, grinding would all be impacted by the lower exposure standard.

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