Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Recently inhalation of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust has been identified
as a cause to a deadly lung disease which causes fibrosis of the lungs, or Silicosis.
WorkSafe has a strategy in place to educate on this hazard, however many
workers do not realise that stone benchtop workers are not the only ones that
are being exposed to this hazard. Workers in the following industries may also
• Construction - concrete, stone, bricks, mortar fibre cement products, painter,
roofer, plumber and drain laying
• Manufacturing of concrete, bricks, pipes and tiles
• Kitchen benchtop manufacturing
• Abrasive Blasting
• Monumental masonry work
• Concrete drilling, cutting, grinding, fettling, missing, handling, dry shovelings
If you work in one of these industries you could be exposed to RCS dust and controls / measures need to be put into place to reduce your likelihood of exposure.
Responsibilities of PCBU
As a PCBU, you must ensure the health and safety of workers and that others are not put at risk from your work.
If you think your work could involve workers being exposed to RCS dust, a risk assessment must be conducted and controls implemented to reduce the risk as far as reasonably as practicable.
Eliminate - Use alternative products to eliminate the risk of RCS dust.
Isolate - Use physical barriers, CNC machines, dust control features.
Minimise - Use low silica content materials, implement control
measures such as wet-working techniques to suppress dust, use dust
Administrative - Exclusion zones with signage, schedule work for
periods when there are fewer workers around.
PPE - supply appropriate PPE for workers, implement fit testing for
respirators, dust protection overalls that are to be cleaned at work (do
not wear home).
Health monitoring and training should also be implemented to provide measures for the controls. Washing facilities at work are also recommended to control the spread of the hazard. Uniforms washed at work and not taken home, and washing facilities such as showers provided to workers.
Health Effects of Exposure
Workers may develop the following lung diseases from breathing in
Silicosis: scarring of lung tissue resulting in shortness of breath. May
continue to develop even after exposure to RCS dust has stopped.
The effects are permanent. There are three types of silicosis:
Acute Silicosis: may occur after exposure of less than a year to large
amounts of RCS dust.
Accelerated Silicosis: may occur after exposure to large amounts of
RCS dust over a shorter period of time, typically 3 - 10 years.
Chronic Silicosis: may occur in workers exposed to high levels of
RCS dust over more than 20 years.
Lung Cancer: may occur in workers exposed to high levels of RCS
dust over a long period of time.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): a chronic lung
condition that can lead to breathing difficulties such as emphysema in
workers exposed to high levels of RCS dust over a long period of time.
There is some evidence that exposure to RCS dust may also cause
Training workers on the level of risk and correct controls that can be
implemented is important.
Worker’s knowledge is their most successful tool. Educate your workers
on the materials and tools that they are working with, the hazards and risks
which come with them and the controls that can be adopted to protect themselves
Need Assistance ?
Our team are here to help if you need assistance with any step of this process.
Our team is available to assist in identification, risk assessment, controls and
Please contact us if you require any advice.