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Silica dashboard

When not controlled, silica dust is a major hazard for workers in NSW. It can lead to the serious and often fatal lung disease silicosis. As part of SafeWork NSW’s Roadmap for NSW 2022, a five-year chemicals strategy has been developed that calls out silica as a top priority chemical. This dashboard shows what is being done. 

Current Silica project status (2017-2022)

Updated: 31 March 2021 

Key activities
107
Presentations

Silica-related presentations to workplaces

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Workplace visits
1441
Workplace visits

Silica-related 

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843
Manufactured stone visits
512
Construction workplace visits
86
Other industries

An icon of a drill
includes tunnelling, manufacturing, foundries and stonemasons

Notices
Notices
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899
Improvement notices
38
Prohibition notices

Issued for uncontrolled exposure to silica dust

 

2
On the spot fines

Issued for uncontrolled dry cutting

25
Exposure standard exceeded*

Notices where control measures not confirmed as meeting 0.05mg/m3

  • Manufactured stone = 20
  • Construction = 5

*commenced 1 July 2020

Cases identified
Silicosis cases
Decorative image of a set of lungs
45*
2020-21

*as at 31 Mar 2021
 

  • 37 cases were notified by iCare
  • 8 cases were notified by other medical professionals.
107
2019-20
40
2018-19
09
2017-18

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.

Demographic overview

  • 100% of cases are males 
  • Australian born workers represented the highest amount of cases where the country of birth could be identified
Afghanistan 1
Australia 13
China 2
Croatia 1
Greece 1
Lebanon 2
Malaysia 4
New Zealand 1
Serbia 1
Former Yugoslavia 1
United Kingdom 1
Vietnam 2
Not identified 13

 

<30 3
31-40 3
41-50 16
51-60 7
61-70 5
71-80 4
81-90 4
Not identified 3

 

Workplace overview

  • Highest number of reported cases by industry - manufactured stone (22), followed by tunneling (7)
  • Highest number of reported cases by occupation - stonemason (21) 
  • The below tables show the industries and occupations of workers notified to SafeWork NSW following a diagnosis of silicosis however this may not be the industry or occupation where exposure occurred, due to the time taken for disease to develop and workers changing jobs and industries.
Tunnelling 7
Building construction/trades 5
Demolition 1
Quarrying 1
Manufactured stone 22
Foundry 1
Manufacturing 1
Not identified 7

 

Carpenter 1
Carpenter 1
Excavator operator 2
Factory worker 1
Farmer 1
Foreman 1
Foundry worker 1
Labourer 3
Plant operator 5
Plumber 1
Retired 2
Stonemason 21
Tiler 2
Tunnel supervisor 1
Tunnel support 1
Not identified 5

 

Health overview

Chronic cases 33
Accelerated cases 3
Acute cases 3
No detail provided 6

 

  • A total of 16 cases have lung impairment of 0%-5%
  • In the early stages of silicosis, workers usually don't have symptoms. 
0-5% 16
6-10% 3
11-15% 4
16-20% 1
21-25% 0
26-30% 2
31%-35% 0
36%-40% 1
>40% 4
Not provided 14

 

Acute
Exposure less than 1 year
3
Accelerated
Exposure over 1 to 10 years (usually 3-10)
3
Chronic
Exposure for more than 10 years
33
Not determined 6

 

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 dust exposure.  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.

More information

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