VIC: multiple companies charged over silica dust exposure

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, 31 August, 2021 - 12:45
Incidents & prosecutions

WorkSafe Victoria recently charged two companies with multiple contraventions of the OHS Act after failing to control risks associated with worker exposure to crystalline silica.

The first company, Boral Resources (Vic) Pty Ltd has been charged with:

  • Two contraventions of section 21(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, when it failed to provide and maintain systems of work that were, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.
  • Contravening section 21(2)(e) of the OHS Act, when it failed to supervise workers to enable them to perform their work in a way that was safe and without risks to health.
  • Three contraventions of section 26 of the OHS Act, when it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it were safe and without risk to health.

The charges follow a WorkSafe investigation into work practices at its Montrose quarry between January 2016 and November 2019.

WorkSafe alleges the company failed to implement control measures, including the use of respiratory protective equipment, to reduce the risk of workers being exposed to dust generated during blasting, crushing, mixing, screening and transferring quarried rock.

It is further alleged the company failed to control the risk despite obtaining air monitoring results which indicated the dust contained respirable crystalline silica in excess of the Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants that could cause serious injury or death to workers at the quarry.

The second company, Hilton Stone Pty Ltd, is facing a total of six charges under sections 21(2)(a) and 111(4) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations 98 and 169 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

The company is accused of failing to provide or maintain a safe system of work by failing to provide proper controls for power tools used to cut, grind or polish engineered stone; and by failing to reduce the risk to employees from machinery, by having an appropriate guard in place.

WorkSafe further alleges Hilton Stone failed to provide employees with appropriate personal protective equipment; failed to put in place health monitoring of employees; and failed to comply with an improvement notice.

The charges follow inspections at the company’s Dandenong site between March 2020 and March 2021 as part of WorkSafe’s targeted enforcement blitz on crystalline silica risks.