Workplace visits (since 2018)
The following information relates to SafeWork NSW’s silica workplace visit program which commenced in 2018. Data is from 2018 to 30 June 2023.
Silica-related presentations to workplaces
Includes tunnelling, manufacturing, foundries and stonemasons.
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.
- Code of Practice for engineered stone – SafeWork NSW
- Crystalline silica – SafeWork NSW
- Silica risks in construction – 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
- Dust strategy 2020-2022 – SafeWork NSW
- 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 email@example.com
- NSW Dust Disease Register Annual Report (PDF 542.96KB) – SafeWork NSW
- 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
- Building and construction industry page includes resources such as the dust safety poster, toolbox talks, safety checklists and fact sheets – SafeWork 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
- YouTube videos about drilling in construction and demolition and excavation – SafeWork NSW
- YouTube video about crystalline silica dust safety – SafeWork NSW
- Regulatory Priorities 2023 – SafeWork NSW
- Hazardous Chemicals and Materials Exposure Baseline and Reduction Strategy (2017-2022) – SafeWork NSW