Recently, WorkSafe Victoria has introduced the new Crystalline Silica Regulations in late 2021, new mandates have been introduced to engineering stone industries and other businesses conducting works with crystalline silica, to aid in the reduction of exposures for employees working within these industries.
While most of the regulations are aimed at engineered stone businesses, there are regulations targeted around businesses working with products containing crystalline silica. Some of these industries include, construction, mining, and manufacturing, with several other industries working with products containing crystalline silica.
In order to reduce exposure to employees, the OHS regulations have mandated businesses who work with crystalline silica products where dust is generated, to ascertain if the task they are undertaking is high-risk crystalline silica work. This means, if employees who are working with certain products containing crystalline silica are exposed to crystalline silica above half the exposure standard of 0.05 mg/m3, or if the process is a risk to employee’s health. This could include generating dust from bricks, concrete, paving tiles, certain rocks, road base or even dust from sand or soils which may contain other silica products.
To determine if a process is high risk crystalline silica work, a risk assessment should be conducted which includes undertaking atmospheric monitoring, analysing 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 risk assessment needs to be a multi-faceted approach, and employees cannot disregard the previous points, and solely rely on the hierarchy of controls to comply with this regulation. To determine if half the exposure standard has been exceeded, personal exposure monitoring for the duration of the task needs to be conducted on the employees or work groups performing the task.
If it is determined the task is high risk crystalline silica work, a hazard control statement needs to be prepared. The hazard control statement needs to outline the works to be conducted, states the hazards and risks and how the control measures will be implemented. A guide to preparing a hazard control statement can be found by clicking the following link - WorkSafe Victoria hazard control statement. If it is unknown whether a task is classed as high-risk crystalline silica work, it must be treated as such until identified otherwise. Moreover, if there is already a SWMS which is prepared for the task 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. Additionally, records of high-risk crystalline silica work and hazard control statements must be kept and made available and reviewed, where necessary. This is particularly pertinent if part of the process changes, as the former control measures may not be sufficient to protect employees.
Businesses also must provide training for employees on the risks and control measures when conducting high-risk crystalline silica work, along with information to new job applicants on the risks associated with working with crystalline silica at commencement of employment.
Additionally, if businesses are mining or producing products with crystalline silica, a percentage content of crystalline silica must be listed, along with the name and contact details of the manufacturer or importer and provided to purchasers of the product. This information must be reviewed every 5 years.
When the Crystalline Silica Regulations were introduced in late 2021, a period of grace for businesses working with crystalline silica was introduced until the 15th of May 2022, to enable risk assessments for high-risk crystalline silica work to be conducted and have hazard control statements developed. As this date has now passed, these regulations are now mandated.
For over 20 years, HAZCON have assisted businesses across a wide range of industries working with crystalline silica in determining employee’s exposure and aided 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.
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