October is National Safe Work Month
What is silica?
What can happen if I'm exposed to silica?
Am I at risk of exposure to silica dust?
What are the symptoms of silicosis?
Healthy Lungs at Work Quiz
How can I protect myself?
To prevent silicosis and other Occupational Lung Diseases, it’s essential to know the rules when using your tools. The Hierarchy of Controls is a system your employer must implement under Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) regulations. It’s ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability (elimination) to the lowest (PPE) and is designed to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks. While it’s a requirement for your employer to implement the Hierarchy of Controls, you are required to follow this. Further, understanding the regulations can help you to identify potential risks in your workplace and better protect yourself and your mates.
Hierarchy of controls
Eliminate the hazard entirely
Substitute for a safer product
How else can I protect myself if I'm at risk?
If you’re working with silica dust and there is a significant risk to your health because of your exposure, you must undergo regular health monitoring. Speak to your employer – they are required to organise this for you and cover the costs under WHS regulations.
It’s also important to talk to your doctor if you have underlying medical problems that working with silica dust may make worse – like existing kidney or lung disease.
If I’m an employer, how do I protect my employees?
As an employer, you have a responsibility to protect your employees from developing an Occupational Lung Disease. Silica dust is just one of many hazardous agents your employees may be exposed to.
- Organise for your employees to participate in health monitoring – Under WHS regulations, you must organise health monitoring for your employees if they carry out ongoing work using, handling, generating or storing crystalline silica and there is a significant risk to their health because of their exposure.
- Conform to Workplace Exposure Standards (WES) – Across Australia, the WES for respirable crystalline silica is currently 0.05mg/m3, averaged over an eight-hour day (except in Tasmania, where it is 0.1mg/m3). Compliance with the WES is required under WHS laws in each jurisdiction. This means that you must ensure that no one at your workplace is exposed to silica above the exposure standard. You must also reduce exposures so far as is reasonably practicable.