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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

New silica code of practice for Queensland

A new code of practice for managing silica in construction commenced operation in Queensland on 1 May 2023.

The Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in construction and manufacturing of construction elements Code of Practice 2022 (the Code) outlines how risks associated with respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can be managed in a way that meets the requirements of the WHS laws.

The Code includes information on the duties that apply, as well as how to:

  • identify RCS hazards
  • choose and properly use the right control measures
  • choose and properly use the right respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
  • carry out regular cleaning and housekeeping
  • maintain plant and equipment
  • conduct air monitoring and health monitoring.

The Code also includes examples and templates for SWMS and RCS dust control plans.

What work does the code apply to?

The Code applies to construction work and to manufacturing of construction elements when the construction or manufacturing involves: 

  • the use of materials that contain 1 per cent or more crystalline silica, and
  • tasks that generate dust containing RCS, or make RCS airborne.

The Code applies to all construction work.  The term ‘construction work’ is as defined in the WHS Regulations.

The Code also applies to the manufacturing of elements for use in construction work, regardless of where the manufacturing is undertaken (i.e., not limited to the manufacturing of elements on a construction site).

Relevant construction elements include, but are not limited to:

  • cement, concrete and aggregates, including precast concrete products and fibre-cement sheeting
  • bricks, tiles, blocks, pylons and pavers
  • grout, mortar, asphalt, sand and stone
  • wall panels
  • geosynthetics.

The Code does not apply to the engineered and natural stone benchtop industry. That industry is covered by the Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry Code of Practice 2019.

How to choose the right control measures

The Code outlines two options for choosing the right control measures for keeping workers safe from exposure to RCS:

  • Method 1: Using the controls table in Appendix 4 of the Code.
  • Method 2: Using air monitoring exposure data to choose dust control measures.

Section 2 of the Code provides flowcharts to help PCBUs work through the two methods and explains how they link to the duties related to air monitoring and health monitoring.

Method 1: Using the controls table in Appendix 4 

Method 1 is a ‘deemed to comply’ approach.   Appendix 4 of the Code outlines the control measures that should be used for a range of common tasks.

For each task, the table in Appendix 4 outlines:

  • the control method or work practice to be used to minimize RCS dust
  • the RPE to be worn, depending on how long the shift is and if the task is done outdoors, or indoors or in an enclosed area.
  • when health monitoring is required (i.e. for some tasks, requiring RPE for 30 or more days in 12 months)

If you follow the controls specified, and use them correctly, you are not required to assess the risk from that task or to conduct air monitoring.  

Importantly, the control measures outlined in Appendix 4 need to be applied correctly by following the guidance in the rest of the Code.  For example, the guidance on using controls, RPE, cleaning and maintenance and providing information and training.

If a PCBU chooses Method 1, the code recommends that a record be kept of the tasks each worker has done that required wearing RPE.  This is to determine when a worker meets the 30-day trigger for health monitoring allowed under this method.  

Method 2: Using exposure data to choose dust controls that work

Method 2 allows PCBUs to choose their own control measures by following the hierarchy of controls in section 6.2 of the Code. 

Method 2 can only be chosen if the PCBU has an air monitoring report that shows the selected controls are effective at preventing workers from being exposed to RCS at levels above the workplace exposure standard. 

Conclusion

If the work generates respirable crystalline silica dust, or makes dust airborne, the Code needs to be followed. 

Suitable measures to control the dust may be selected and applied using either the deemed to comply approach of Method 1 or by using Method 2

 

The Code of practice can be downloaded from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland website:

To find out more, contact HIA's Building Services team.

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