Did you know that it only takes a very small amount of respirable crystalline silica (RCS), commonly known as silica dust to create a lifelong and serious health issue?
RCS is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand and totally invisible to our naked eye. It is found in many materials common on construction like:
- Granite, and
- Other building materials.
The Health Impact
The dust created by cutting, grinding, drilling these materials can contain crystalline silica particles. Inhalation of silica dust will result to several health issues such as:
- Silicosis (fatality within 5 to 10 years for people aged 20 to 30 years old)
- Lung Cancer
- Kidney Disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
People with Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust exposure greater than 0.065mg/m3 over their working life have an increased risk of lung cancer. Furthermore, the risk of silicosis is estimated at 7% at an average exposure of 0.06mg/m3.
SafeWork SA has announced it will implement a nationally agreed reduced workplace exposure limit (or WEL) for respirable crystalline silica to an 8 hour time weighted average of 0.05mg/m3 starting 1 July 2020.
What Do I Need To Do?
Employers need to determine if there are any risks associated with exposure to silica dust in their workplace. Work activities need to be controlled so workers and the public are not put at risk.
There are certain control measures you need to observe, especially if you are in high-risk industries like manufacturing, mining, and construction:
- Use the right type of dust mask or respirator, certified to Australian Standards
- Have adequate ventilation systems
- Use/buy tools with dust capture and collection
- Clean any dust with water and vacuum – Do Not Sweep Dry Dust
- Wet materials down when cutting or drilling – No Uncontrolled Dry Cutting
- Conduct regular air monitoring and get workers to have regular health checks
For help with your WHS assessment and risk management, contact us on (08) 8322 2279 or via our website and one of our friendly WHS advisors can help.