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Silica Dust Exposure

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

Silca Dust
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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

be exposed.

• Quarrying

• Roding

• Foundries

• 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

• Mining

• Concrete drilling, cutting, grinding, fettling, missing, handling, dry shovelings

and tunneling.

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

control features.

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

RCS Dust:

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

kidney disease.


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

and others.

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

monitoring programs.

Please contact us if you require any advice.

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