Safe Work alters workplace limit to silica exposure

Work health and safety (WHS) ministers have agreed to reduce the workplace exposure standards for respirable crystalline silica as soon as practicable.

The workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica is set to go down from 0.1 milligram to a time weighted average of 0.05 milligrams a cubic metre.

A total of 6.6 per cent of Australian workers faced exposure to respirable crystalline silica, with earthmoving works or excavation works, and construction workers the most likely to be affected, according to a study by Oxford Academic in 2016.

The equivalent for respirable coal dust will also fall from 2.5 milligrams to a time weighted average of 1.5 milligrams a cubic metre.

This will take a three-year transitional period, with the exposure standard to be applicable starting from October 2022.

Commenting on the change of regulation, Safe Work Australia stated, “We received 31 submissions with valuable feedback from a range of stakeholders, including WHS regulators, government, industry and industry groups, unions, professionals and other interested or affected people.”

The announcement coincided with tighter controls executed by the Queensland Government on mine dust levels, on top of its $1.21 million funding for a mobile health screening van.

Mining companies are also required to keep their records of air monitoring for a minimum of 30 years and make them available to affected workers.