Dust management, Hazardous materials, News, Work health and safety

Change is in the air: silica ban comes into effect

A new WorkSafe commissioner has been appointed in Western Australia just in time for the new country-wide engineered stone ban to come into effect.

Sally North has taken on the top job with WorkSafe, bringing more than 23 years’ experience in WA’s occupational health and safety sector.

“Sally North is an outstanding advocate for worker health and safety and has extensive experience working on a range of state and national issues,” Industrial Relations Minister Simone McGurk said.

“Ms North’s time as the acting WorkSafe commissioner, acting deputy WorkSafe commissioner and her understanding of the private sector means she is eminently suitable for the position.”

North takes on the role during a pivotal time for Australia. As of July 1, the world-first engineered stone ban is now in effect to protect workers from the threat of silicosis.

Under the ban, the manufacture, supply, processing and installation of engineered stone benchtops, panels and slabs is prohibited in every state and territory in Australia.

Mining is not affected by the new silica legislation as the work health and safety laws for mine sites already address the issue.

But regulators are firm more can be done.

According to WorkSafe, on-site dust problems, largely stemming from the crushing of silica-containing rock by grinders during the gold extraction process, have been a recurring concern since 2020.

From September 1, stronger regulation of all crystalline silica substances comes into effect, meaning more eyes will be turning to the issue and its impacts beyond engineered stone.

While the mining industry heavily regulates the crushing of silica dust-releasing rock, some are calling for greater awareness.

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