NSW cracks down on dust exposure in mines and quarries

The NSW Mine Safety Advisory Council is hoping to eradicate the threat of dust for mine and quarry workers, as well as workers in other workplace environments, through a new awareness campaign.

While seeing is certainly not believing with the threat that dust poses for the industry, the new campaign is aiming to educate workers with dust prevention measures.

It noted that dust particles that appear in mining operations are 100 times smaller than a grain of sand and can lead to several diseases including silicosis and lung cancer.

According to NSW Mine Safety Advisory Council chairman George Souris AM, the awareness campaign has the ability to show mines and quarries how they can stay safe and prevent dust-related health issues.

“Quarries and mines can be dusty places to work and this campaign will hopefully help workers and contractors better understand the health impacts of dust and how workers can help take steps to ensure their own personal safety as well as that of their mates,” Souris said.

“Exposure to harmful dust and dust disease is preventable when appropriate safety measures are in place. This includes the mine or quarry itself but also workers making safety a number one priority through awareness and prevention.

“It can be many years or in some cases even decades before these diseases manifest themselves. So stop, think and be safe at work.”

The campaign provides insights from health and safety, and industry officials, along with an online toolkit available online.

This is one of many ways the NSW government is aiming to tackle dust-related diseases, after the state introduced a list of new reforms on 1 July.

Introduced earlier this week was the new respirable crystalline silica workplace exposure standard of 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre. NSW is one of the first states to introduce the new minimum standard.

The state government has revised its Workplace Exposure Standards for airborne Contaminants (WESFAC), with mines and petroleum sites having to log any dust surpasses the new standard.

“Silicosis is an incredibly painful and aggressive disease, but it is also preventable. We are taking every step possible to protect workers in NSW from being exposed to lethal levels of silica,” NSW Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said.

“Making silicosis a notifiable disease is the next step in our journey to stamp out silicosis cases in this state.

“Once NSW Health notifies SafeWork NSW of cases, our inspectors can target their compliance and enforcement efforts based on each diagnosed individual’s current or previous workplaces and ultimately prevent further cases.”

Anderson said uncontrolled dry cutting  and stone grinding of manufactured stone is now banned in the state with any corporations who breach this reform facing a maximum $30,000 fine.

“We know dry cutting is a key cause of silica exposure, and it’s highly preventable by wet cutting or using the right dust capturing measures,” he said.

“Thanks to this comprehensive compliance program including on-the-spot fines, a reduction in the exposure standard and the requirement to notify silicosis cases, we will put a stop to the increase in cases and ensure that people in NSW are protected.