NSW launches initiatives to protect workers using sandstone and silica products

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 29 October, 2019 - 14:15
Policy & legislation
New South Wales

Workers involved in the cutting of manufactured stone, sandstone and building products will be better protected from dust diseases under a range of new NSW Government measures designed to prevent exposure to silica dust.

The initiatives will benefit those working in the manufactured stone, sandstone stonemasonry, as well as the tunneling and domestic construction industries, said NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson.

“To reduce the possible exposure to silica dust, the NSW Government will support SafeWork Australia’s recommendation to reduce the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard from 0.1 to 0.05 mg/m3, and will also support SafeWork Australia undertaking further research on whether a reduction to 0.02 mg/m3 is achievable,” Minister Anderson said.

“We will also boost safety rebates available to the manufactured stone fabrication industry, by introducing an industry specific safety rebate of $1000 until June 2020, to assist with improved safety controls.

“There is now no reason for NSW workplaces to not have the necessary safety controls in place.

“This increased grant will allow those most at risk from coming into contact with silica to have access to the best methods of wet cutting, ventilation, dust collection and respirators.”

With the implementation of the new exposure standard and access to increased rebates, he said manufactured stone fabricators will be expected to achieve compliance or face tough new penalties that the NSW Government will soon introduce.

“SafeWork NSW have visited every manufactured stone site in NSW, and following another blitz to ensure employers are aware of the updated standards, inspectors will be able to issue on-the-spot fines for non-compliance in addition to shutting worksites down,” Minister Anderson said.

“Silicosis is entirely preventable with the correct safety measures in place, which is why the NSW Government supports the reduction of the acceptable exposure standard so that we can better protect people who work with products containing silica.”

The NSW Government developed a comprehensive five-year strategy to address silicosis after identifying it as a major concern more than two years ago.

The strategy includes awareness and education, business rebates, conducting research and reviewing regulations.

Site visits and education initiatives will increase every year until 30 June 2022 to reach the target of 9000 interactions with NSW businesses working with silica by the end of SafeWork NSW’s five-year Chemicals Strategy in 2022.