If you are having problems logging in, please call HIA helpdesk on 1300 650 620 during business hours.
Enter details below and sign up
Workplace health and safety regulators across Australia continue to introduce safety standards and regulations for silica dust.
Silica dust can cause silicosis and other diseases if inhaled. This may occur when working with materials that contain crystalline silica. For example, by cutting, grinding or polishing, stone, concrete, tiles and other materials.
The re-emergence of silicosis has been driven by the popularity of engineered stone benchtop material. Hence, control of exposure to dust in the fabrication and installation of stone benchtops continues to be the main focus. But other building materials that contain crystalline silica are also under the spotlight.
What are State and Territory Governments doing?
Most workplace health and safety regulators have set benchmarks to protect workers exposed to silica dust. They are taking action and are providing enhanced support for individuals affected by silicosis. Most have conducted campaigns to improve education and awareness of the risks and how to stay safe.
Workplace health and safety regulators have audited stone benchtop workshops to enforce compliance with health and safety requirements.
Regulators have made (or are making) changes to better protect workers from hazardous exposures to silica dust. This includes new laws, codes of practice, safety alerts and guides on how to control risks. For example, Queensland made a code of practice for managing risks associated with engineered stone. Victoria produced a similar compliance code. Queensland is working on a code of practice for managing silica in construction work.
States, such as NSW, Victoria and Queensland have passed laws banning the uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone.
Victoria intends to introduce the most wide-ranging set of silica regulations in the world by the end of the year.
Victorian regulatory proposals include:
- A licensing scheme for work with engineered stone.
- Supplies must not supply engineered stone to a person who does not hold the required license.
- Suppliers to keep certain records of supply of engineered stone,
- Mandatory identification and assessment of activities involving crystalline silica.
- Requirements for written silica hazard control statements.
- Requirements to inform employees and job applicants about silica risks and control measures.
Much work has been undertaken nation-wide to address risks of exposure to silica dust.
Safe Work Australia* (SWA) launched its Clean Air Clear Lungs campaign. This includes national guidance on how to prevent exposure to silica dust.
SWA undertook a review of the Workplace Exposure Standard (WES) for respirable crystalline silica (RCS). This led to a reduced WES of 0.05 mg/m3. A further review is under consideration.
A range of other SWA activities currently under development include:
- A model code of practice for managing silica dust when working with engineered stone.
- Model regulations prohibiting uncontrolled dry cutting of engineered stone.
Licensing of engineered stone work and laws for other tasks capable of generating silica dust are also under consideration.
The Workplace Exposure Standard is the airborne concentration of RCS above which workers must not be exposed. The WES is a time-weighted average over an eight-hour working day and a five-day working week.