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Silica dust reforms in the ACT

The ACT Government has announced that it will introduce workplace health and safety reforms for silica dust.

What are the first set of reforms?

The first set of reforms, introduced in April 2022, are to be a prohibition on uncontrolled dry cutting, and mandatory silica dust awareness training for workers. Other provisions to follow include additional requirements for air monitoring and for health monitoring of workers.

The ban on uncontrolled dry cutting will include the use of a power tool, for cutting, grinding, trimming, sanding, polishing or drilling of silica containing materials. According to the government, this will apply to:

  • engineered stone
  • natural stone containing silica
  • concrete
  • masonry
  • cement
  • mortar and bricks

However, PCBUs may implement a combination of control measures to manage the risks of exposure to silica dust. This might include use of water delivery systems, on-tool dust extraction, segregation of work areas and respiratory protective equipment.

Mandatory silica dust awareness training (which will be similar to that for asbestos awareness training) will be required  from 1 July 2023. The government has not announced which occupations will require the training but that it will be broadly aligned with the existing mandatory training requirements for asbestos.  It is not clear at this stage  whether it will be all workers or limited as is the case with the working safely with asbestos course.

What are the second set of reforms?

The second set of reforms, (to be introduced in July 2022 and become effective from 1 January 2023), will expand on existing air monitoring and health monitoring requirements of the WHS laws. According the ACT government: 

  • PCBU’s that carry out high risk silica dust work will be required to undertake air monitoring at regular intervals to ensure that the workplace exposure standard of 0.05 mg/m3 is not exceeded. Air monitoring could be required at least every 6 months and when there are changes in the workplace, work practice or work materials. 
  • Health monitoring requirements would involve:
    • baseline health monitoring for each worker before working in silica risk work 
    • regular/ongoing health monitoring during the worker’s employment – at least annually 
    • a health assessment on exiting employment. 

Along with these reforms, the ACT will also consider be adopting the model codes of practice developed by SafeWork Australia pertaining to silica safety. Further details of these reforms can be found in the ACT Governments website.

For more information see the following HIA information sheets

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

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