New technology in plaster

USG Boral is committed to developing products that provide the industry with a safe working environment.

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The growing concern over the rise in reported respirable crystalline silica (RCS) related cases is putting pressure on the construction industry to have greater focus on health and safety practices. While governments are targeting the stonemasonry industry, and specifically pro-posing to ban uncontrolled dry cutting techniques, the proposed lowering of the Workplace Exposure Standard (WES) for RCS will impact all processes and products that can generate RCS. This includes certain plasterboard and plaster-based products.

USG Boral is committed to helping create healthier work environments. As a manufacturer of plasterboards and jointing compounds, USG Boral has a responsibility to support workers’ health and safety. The company reviews the products and services it provides to ensure it contributes to a safer workplace, such as improvements in the development of water-resistant plasterboard and new jointing compounds. 

The crystalline silica content of raw materials can vary considerably across industries. Exposure in the plasterboard industry comes from the use of gypsum and limestone. However, local sources of both are very pure, with low levels of crystalline silica content. According to Tim Harrington, USG Boral category manager – compounds, ‘plaster-based products contain very small amounts of Quartz (crystalline silica), with finished plasterboard and plasterboard jointing compounds typically containing less than 0.1 per cent RCS’. 


Over the past few years, the construction industry has adopted numerous safety practices to minimise exposure to airborne hazards, including vacuum assisted sanding tools and more effective dust masks with higher protection against airborne particulates. 

The current WES for RCS is 0.1mg/m3 over an eight-hour work day. An employee’s level of risk is a combination of the type of material being handled and the manner of the activity being undertaken. That’s why high quartz content manufactured stone that’s dry cut at high speed, producing RCS above the workplace exposure standard, is under the spotlight. 

‘The onsite preparation and installation of plasterboard doesn’t exceed the permissible workplace exposure standard,’ Tim says. 

Respirable dust is generated in workplaces when jointed plasterboard walls and ceilings are sanded using hand-held or mechanical sanders. SHEETROCK® Dust Control limits the pluming of sanded compound dust through air spaces. Technology contained in the product produces dust particles which fall directly to the wall- or floor-junction and react better to the vacuum of mechanical sanders. This results in far less airborne dust.

Tested to the USA’s National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) Method 0600, SHEETROCK® Dust Control produces respirable airborne dust at levels lower than the USA’s current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) that are lower than the current WES set by SafeWork Australia.

Tim says that USG Boral is committed to developing products that provide the industry with a safer working environment. ‘Not only do USG Boral’s wet-area plasterboard and SHEETROCK® Dust Control provide unrivalled finishes, there are also real-world benefits. The work-place of old is no longer the norm. Working in a dusty air space, spending hours cleaning up, covered in dust is not something which has to go with the territory.’ 

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SHEETROCK® Dust Control limits the pluming of sanded compound dust through air spaces

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