In 2019, Safe Work Australia announced the reduction of workplace exposure standards (WES) for respirable crystalline silica (RCS).
The workplace exposure standard reduced from its time-weighted average of 0.1 mg/m3 to the significantly lower 0.05 mg/m3.
Exposure to the hazardous substance can cause lung disease, silicosis, which saw a surge in diagnoses in the years leading up to the announcement, primarily amongst stone fabricators working with engineered stone.
The reduced workplace exposure standard for RCS places additional scrutiny on employers to meet their legislative obligation to provide a safe environment for workers.
Safe Work Australia Announcement
Work Health and Safety ministers agreed by the requisite majority to reduce the workplace exposure standards for respirable coal dust and respirable crystalline silica.
- Respirable coal dust will be reduced to a time-weighted average (TWA) of 1.5 mg/m3
- Respirable crystalline silica will be reduced to a TWA of 0.05 mg/m3.
WHS ministers further agreed that the revised workplace exposure standards for respirable coal dust will apply from 1 October 2022. It would allow for a three-year transitional period.
For respirable crystalline silica, WHS ministers agreed the revised WES be implemented as soon as practicable.
Implementation of the updated workplace exposure standards for respirable crystalline silica:
- Victoria: 17 December 2019
- South Australia: 1 July 2020
- Queensland: 1 July 2020
- Queensland (coal mining, mining and quarrying): 1 September 2020
- Australian Capital Territory: 1 July 2020
- Northern Territory: 1 July 2020
- New South Wales: 1 July 2020
- Commonwealth: 1 July 2020
- Western Australia: 27 October 2020
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