SafeWork NSW compliance activities
The following information relates to SafeWork NSW’s silica workplace visit program which commenced in 2018. Data is from 2018 to 30 September 2023.
Silica-related presentations to workplaces
Includes tunnelling, manufacturing, foundries and stonemasons.
Any silica-related improvement notice
Issued for uncontrolled exposure to silica dust
Issued for uncontrolled dry cutting
Since 2018 there have been two prosecutions related to silica.
Exposed workers to the inhalation of RCS and/or acquiring silicosis or other respiratory disease or illness while performing their duties.
Failed to provide appropriate RPE to workers or provide RPE fit-test and training for workers.
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 and resources
- Crystalline silica – SafeWork NSW
- Building and construction industry page includes resources such as the dust safety poster, toolbox talks, safety checklists and fact sheets – SafeWork NSW
- Notification of a silicosis diagnosis page contains information about medical practitioners needing to notify NSW Health when they diagnose a case of silicosis in NSW – SafeWork NSW
Codes of practice and fact sheets
- Code of Practice for engineered stone – SafeWork NSW
- Tunnels Under Construction Code of Practice – SafeWork NSW
- Code of Practice Construction Work – SafeWork NSW
- Crystalline Silica Technical Fact Sheet – SafeWork NSW
- Managing the risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace – SafeWork NSW
- Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals – SafeWork NSW
- Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals – SafeWork NSW
- The $1,000 SafeWork small business rebate is available to all eligible businesses and sole traders in NSW who buy and install equipment that makes their workplace safer.
- Silica Awareness and Safety online course – Construct NSW
- YouTube videos about safely cutting bricks and concrete that contain silica using on-tool dust capture and water. Translated versions are available in Arabic and Chinese – SafeWork NSW
- Drilling in construction video – SafeWork NSW
- Demolition and excavation video – SafeWork NSW
- Crystalline silica dust safety – SafeWork NSW
- Silica safety in construction webinar – SafeWork NSW
- Notification of silicosis diagnosis webinar – SafeWork NSW
- Health monitoring (regulatory requirements) webinar – SafeWork NSW
- Working with Crystalline Silica for Office of Local Government – SafeWork NSW
- Silicosis - What you need to know – icare
- Another one fights the dust quiz – Lung Foundation Australia
- Memorandum of Understanding - notification of cases of occupational dust diseases sets out how SafeWork NSW and NSW Health will share and use information about occupational dust diseases. For an accessible version, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Research and case studies
- Case Finding Study Report - respirable crystalline silica exposure in the NSW manufactured stone industry (2017-2020) (PDF 1.66MB)
- Clean Air, Clear Lungs national occupational lung disease awareness campaign – Safe Work Australia