As of 1 May 2023, Australia’s first silica dust Code, Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in construction and manufacturing of construction elements Code of Practice 2022, for the construction industry will be effective. The Code has been implemented by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) and applies to all construction work and the manufacturing of materials including bricks, blocks, tiles, mortar and concrete.
What is respirable crystalline silica (RCS)?
Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) is a hazardous substance that is generated through working with materials that contain crystalline silica, such as:
- Concrete and cement
- Engineered stone
- Natural stone (eg granite or sandstone)
- Fibre cement products.
Cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, polishing, scabbling and crushing the above materials can result in the generation of dust containing RCS.
This dust is particularly dangerous as when it is breathed in it can lead to serious lung diseases, including silicosis and lung cancer, which can result in permanent disability and death. Workplace exposure to silica has also been associated with the development of some autoimmune and arthritic diseases.
RCS is a very fine dust is very easy to breathe in due to its ability to stay in the air for several hours, and it is too small to be seen by eye, prompting the necessary implementation of this Code.
What is the workplace exposure standard for RCS?
The workplace exposure standard (WES) for RCS is 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3) over an eight-hour period (8-h time-weighted average or TWA).
With the right controls in place, it is important to ensure that nobody in the workplace is exposed to a level of RCS higher than the WES, and to remove or reduce the risk from RCS so far as is reasonably practicable (further information about what is reasonably practicable in Section 3.4 here).
How Sonic HealthPlus can help:
Part of the Code requires health monitoring for workers exposed to RCS. WHS Regulation section 368 says that health monitoring is required if the worker is carrying out ongoing work at a workplace using, handling, generating or storing hazardous chemicals (such as RCS), and there is a significant risk to the worker’s health because of exposure to hazardous chemicals (such as RCS).
It is the responsibility of the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) to determine whether or not the risk to workers is significant and whether or not health monitoring is required. However, the PCBU may need to seek expert advice, for example, from an Occupational Physician.
We can assess to determine if there is significant risk in your workplace. We have a team of highly qualified specialist Occupational and Environmental Physicians and Senior Registrars with expertise in this field of medicine, and can also liaise with our occupational hygiene colleagues on your behalf if necessary.
For further information on the Health Monitoring services we provide, contact your Client Partner or review our Health Monitoring webpage.