The NSW Government has launched a six-month campaign targeting silica dust exposure in the construction and tunnelling industry.
While manufactured stone is the leading cause of silicosis, workers can also be exposed to silica dust during tunnelling, demolition and excavation work, or from uncontrolled cutting, grinding and drilling of common building materials including bricks, concrete, sandstone and tiles.
SafeWork NSW inspectors will target these areas to prevent a false sense of security ahead of the coming ban on manufactured stone in NSW.
Inspectors will ensure businesses are compliant with regulations and speak to workers about managing the risk of exposure to silica dust.
Silicosis is a deadly disease that has devasting effects on the lungs and is becoming increasingly prevalent in Australian workers, especially those in the engineered stone industry.
SafeWork inspectors take a zero-tolerance approach to workers’ lives being placed at risk through exposure to silica dust and can issue stop work notices for activities that generate high levels of dust, or when a worksite hasn’t got adequate dust control measures in place.
If these notices are not complied with, employers can face penalties of up to $130,000.
The Minns Labor Government also recently passed laws to establish a silica worker register, to track and trace exposed workers and enable early intervention.
The NSW Government will be supporting a ban on engineered stone at the upcoming national meeting of Work Health and Safety ministers on the 13th of December and will act unilaterally if no agreement is made.
Quotes attributable to the Minister for Work Health and Safety, Sophie Cotsis:
“This campaign is to protect workers who may be exposed to the deadly risks of silica dust and will help ensure safer workplaces in NSW.
“The NSW Government is committed a nationally consistent ban on manufactured stone”
“Exposure to silica dust is an incredibly serious issue for workers in a range of industries and we must learn from the hard lessons of asbestos.”
Minister for Industrial Relations
Minister for Work Health and Safety