The New South Wales Government has launched a range of new initiatives to protect workers from exposure to silica dust.
The measures aim to help improve the health and safety of workers in the manufactured stone, sandstone stonemasonry, tunnelling and domestic construction industries.
“To reduce the possible exposure to silica dust, the NSW Government will support SafeWork Australia’s recommendation to reduce the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard from 0.1 to 0.05 mg/m3, and will also support SafeWork Australia undertaking further research on whether a reduction to 0.02 mg/m3 is achievable,” said NSW Regulation and Innovation Minster Kevin Anderson.
“We will also boost safety rebates available to the manufactured stone fabrication industry, by introducing an industry specific safety rebate of $1000 until June 2020, to assist with improved safety controls.
“There is now no reason for NSW workplaces to not have the necessary safety controls in place. This increased grant will allow those most at risk from coming into contact with silica to have access to the best methods of wet cutting, ventilation, dust collection and respirators.
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The NSW Government has also announced it will introduce “tough new penalties” to achieve compliance, with SafeWork NSW visiting every manufactured stone site in the state following a blitz to ensure employers are aware of the updated standards.
Inspectors will be able to issue on-the spot-fines for non-compliance in addition to shutting worksites down.
“Silicosis is entirely preventable with the correct safety measures in place, which is why the NSW Government supports the reduction of the acceptable exposure standard so that we can better protect people who work with products containing silica,” Anderson said.
“The NSW Government developed a comprehensive five-year strategy to address silicosis after identifying it as a major concern more than two years ago. The strategy includes awareness and education, business rebates, conducting research and reviewing regulations.”
Site visits and education initiatives will increase each year until June 2022, with the target of 9000 interactions with NSW business working with silica by the end of SafeWork NSW’s five-year Chemicals Strategy in 2022.