The changes to the workplace exposure standard, the proposed update to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, and the guidance from WorkSafe on acceptable levels of exposure to this hazardous material, will give many employers 'food for thought' on how they have been managing their worker's exposure to this hazardous substance and what they need to do in the future.
The Workplace Exposure Standard was reduced from 0.1mg/m3 to 0.05mg/m3. Furthermore, the Compliance Code Managing exposure to crystalline silica: Engineered stone 2020 sets a more stringent compliance requirement for employers as it states that exposure to respirable crystalline silica should be no more than 40% of the exposure standard. The implication of the reduction in exposure levels is that for some organisations who previously had air monitoring that found exposure levels less than 0.1 mg/m3 but greater than 0.02 mg/m3 now need to review their processes and controls to ensure they comply with the requirements of the compliance code.
The recently issued proposed crystalline silica regulations apply a high-risk construction work like risk assessment process for employers and employees when working with products that contain crystalline silica. The definitions in the draft regulations includes the following.
Crystalline silica process, in summary, is any process that will form a dust that contains crystalline silica such as cutting, polishing, grinding or crushing, processing, screening, using, quarrying etc.
High risk crystalline silica work is work performed in connection with a crystalline silica process that is reasonably likely to result in
(a) an airborne concentration of respirable crystalline silica that exceeds half the exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica; or
(b) a risk to the health of a person at the workplace.
Excluding the licensing requirements for engineered stone processes, the balance of the proposed regulations appear to a blend of lead, construction, and asbestos regulations in that they require:
The date for public submissions has passed, however, the timeline for review and development of the regulations is listed on the government website.