Silica dust is a major hazard for workers in NSW and can lead to the serious and often fatal lung disease silicosis. Our silica dashboard shows what is being done.
Current Silica project status (2017-2022)
Updated: September 2022
The following information relates to SafeWork NSW’s silica workplace visit program which commenced in 2018 and runs until late 2022. Data is from 2018 to 30 June 2022.
includes tunnelling, manufacturing, foundries and stonemasons
Issued for uncontrolled exposure to silica dust
Issued for uncontrolled dry cutting
Notices issued where control measures not confirmed as meeting 0.05mg/m3
- Manufactured stone = 20
- Construction = 49
*commenced 1 July 2020
Notification of a silicosis diagnosis
From 1 July 2020, all medical practitioners must notify NSW Health when they diagnose a case of silicosis in NSW.
Reducing exposure to hazardous chemicals and materials Project 2017-2022
Respirable Crystalline Silica (silica) is identified as one of the Top 2 Chemicals which pose the greatest risk to workers in NSW (the other being Formaldehyde). Aligned to SafeWork NSW’s Roadmap for NSW 2022, this project aims to achieve a 30% reduction in serious injuries and illnesses by 2022, in relation to exposure to hazardous chemicals. Key components of the project are awareness and education, inspector visits and compliance, legislation and research into best practice approaches to harm prevention.
Action taken on uncontrolled cutting, grinding or drilling of silica products or materials
From 1 July 2020:
- the workplace exposure standard (WES) for silica has been reduced to 0.05mg/m3 (eight-hour time-weighted average)
- on-the-spot fines apply for uncontrolled cutting, grinding, drilling and polishing of manufactured stone
- silicosis became a notifiable condition by all medical practitioners to NSW Health
- on-the-spot fines apply for PCBUs failing to notify SafeWork NSW of an adverse health monitoring report
Uncontrolled cutting, grinding or drilling of products or materials containing crystalline silica can generate hazardous levels of airborne dust. Breathing in this dust, usually over several years, can lead to serious and fatal lung diseases such as silicosis. You must use water, dust extraction systems on portable tools, or adopt other methods that eliminate or minimise the generation of silica dust. Inspectors can issue prohibition notices to stop you from doing work that generates high levels of silica dust. If you don't comply with a prohibition notice, PCBUs (employers) can face penalties up to $100,000.
If you are a fabricator or installer of manufactured stone products e.g. kitchen benchtops you must:
- use saws, grinders and polishers with an integrated water supply to minimise the amount of dust generated
- ensure workers wear half face piece reusable or disposable respirators as a minimum, that comply with the Australian Standard 1716:2012 Respiratory Protective Devices
- use on-tool dust capture shrouds or water to control dust generated during any work required during on site installation.
Failure to use these controls for fabricating or installing manufactured stone can result in an on the spot fine of $3,600.
- Read the Code of Practice for Engineered Stone
- Learn more about crystalline silica (SafeWork NSW)
- Learn more about silica risks in construction (SafeWork NSW)
- Notification of a silicosis diagnosis: information advising that all medical practitioners must notify NSW Health when they diagnose a case of silicosis in NSW. Information for medical practitioners, businesses and workers.
- Find out about SafeWork NSW's Dust strategy 2020-2022
- SafeWork NSW's Roadmap 2022
- SafeWork NSW and NSW Health have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding - notification of cases of occupational dust diseases that sets out how they will share and use information about occupational dust diseases. For an accessible version of the memorandum of understanding contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Read the NSW Dust Disease Register Annual Report (PDF 542.96KB)
- Read the Case Finding Study Report - respirable crystalline silica exposure in the NSW manufactured stone industry (2017-2020) (PDF 1.66MB)
- Learn more about the national occupational lung disease awareness campaign Clean Air, Clear Lungs