Workplace Health and Safety Queensland recently announced that it will resume audits of stone benchtop fabrication businesses as part of ongoing compliance and enforcement activities in the industry.
The audits, which will run until mid-2021, are to assess whether workplaces are complying with the new Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry Code of Practice 2019 that came into force last October.
The level of compliance required in the code of practice is more stringent than in previous guidelines, so stone benchtop fabricators will first be provided with information and resources clarifying what compliance looks like and how to prepare for the audits.
Once the campaign shifts into the compliance phase, inspectors will monitor all stone benchtop fabricators throughout Queensland to:
Individual workplace guidance and support is available through the Injury Prevention and Management program.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s audits follow a change in the workplace exposure standard for silica, which was halved from an eight-hour time-weighted average of 0.1 mg/m3 to 0.05 mg/m3 under the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011.
The new standard was agreed by work health and safety ministers following an extensive review of safe exposure levels by Safe Work Australia.
Silica dust can cause serious illness and disease, and employers should keep worker exposures as low as reasonably practicable.
Under the WHS Regulations, employers must provide health monitoring for workers if they carry out ongoing work using, handling, generating or storing crystalline silica and there is a significant risk to the workers’ health because of exposure.
While there has been significant attention on RCS in manufactured or engineered stone, exposure risks extend to a broad range of industries.
Silica is widely encountered in extractive industries, in the manufacture of many concrete-based building materials, and finds widespread use in manufacturing processes.
Typical leading industries include construction, tunnelling, foundries, cement manufacturing, quarrying and mining.
When workers cut, crush, drill, polish, saw or grind products that contain silica, dust particles are generated that are small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and cause illness or disease including silicosis.