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Crystalline Silica Legislative Changes

Posted by John Rochford on 18 November 2021

In response to the prevalence of silica related diseases throughout several industries, a review and halving of the workplace exposure standard by Safe Work Australia for respirable crystalline silica in July 2020. Following this, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2021 were proposed and adopted by the Victorian government on the 15th November 2021. The majority of the major changes refer to workplaces who work with engineered stone, however some changes have been instituted for other industries such as the mining, construction, and manufacturing works.

The following main changes for engineering stone have been summarised below.

Engineered stone businesses:

-          A control plan must be developed which outlines the works to be conducted, states hazards and risks and how the control measures will be implemented.

-          Businesses must apply for an engineered stone licence by November 2022 which contains the address of the business, control plan, the risk control measures, number of employees who may be exposed, name and address of supplier of the engineered stone, detailed information of training and instruction provided to employees, and a statement provided to employees on the health risks associated with engineered stone. A 1 year transitional period between November 2021 and November 2022 has been set up to enable businesses to develop control plans to apply for licences.

-          Health monitoring and atmospheric monitoring must be conducted on a periodical basis. This includes periodical health monitoring for employees once they have ceased employment within the business.

-          Dust suppression systems such as water suppression, on tool extraction systems or local exhaust ventilation systems along with respiratory protection must be implemented.

-          Training for employees on the risks and control measures when working with engineered stone, along with information to applicants on the risks associated with working with engineering stone at commencement of employment.

-          Compressed air is also prohibited for cleaning clothing, tools or work areas unless it can be proven that the use of compressed air doesn’t cause the airborne crystalline silica concentration to exceed the Safe Work Australia workplace exposure standard.

WorkSafe has published a compliance code in February 2020 for Managing exposure to crystalline silica from engineered stone which gives comprehensive guidance on managing the risks when working within this industry. Further guidance is also available on the WorkSafe website for fulfilling the requirements when applying for an engineered stone licence. Additionally, WorkSafe has also published a guide which summarises the changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2021.

Other industries:

The below changes do not come into effect until May 2022 to allow for businesses to develop the necessary changes within their systems and processes.

-          Businesses who mine or produce products with crystalline silica need to list a percentage content of crystalline silica must be listed, along with the name and contact details of the manufacturer or importer to be provided to purchasers of the product. This information must be reviewed every 5 years. 

-          Any business where dust is generated from products containing crystalline silica is classed as a crystalline silica process. If this activity exposes employees to crystalline silica above half the exposure standard, or has a risk to an employees health, it is classed as high risk crystalline silica work.

-          In conducting a risk assessment for tasks which may be classed as high-risk crystalline silica work, control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of controls are to be considered, along with atmospheric monitoring results, the form and percentage of crystalline silica within the product, the duration of the task, and any information on illnesses, incidents or injuries within the workplace as a result of the task. The hierarchy of controls can not be the only factor in determining if it is a high-risk crystalline silica process.

-          For all high-risk crystalline silica work, a hazard control statement must be prepared which outlines the works to be conducted, states hazards and risks and how the control measures will be implemented. If it is unknown whether a task is classed as high-risk crystalline silica work, it must be treated as such until identified otherwise.

-          If a SWMS is already prepared for tasks where silica is a risk, the hazards and control measures can be incorporated into the SWMS which would act as the hazard control statement, as long as it satisfies the requirements stated above.

-          Records of high-risk crystalline silica work and hazard control statements must be kept and made available and reviewed where necessary.

-          Training for employees on the risks and control measures when conducting high-risk crystalline silica work must be conducted, along with information to new job applicants on the risks associated with working with crystalline silica at commencement of employment.

HAZCON have assisted several businesses across a wide range of industries working with crystalline silica in determining employees exposure, to aid in assisting with risk assessments and control measures to best protect employees. Additionally, HAZCON has also facilitated testing of bulk samples for percentage silica to further enable businesses to inform their risk assessments for crystalline silica.

For any inquiries or further assistance, please email hazcon@hazcon.com.au.

 

 

Author:John Rochford

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