New Victoria Silica Dust Law
| August 26 2019
New Victoria Silica Dust Law
Victoria has enacted the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2019, which commenced on 20th August 2019.
The regulations apply to all works involving engineered stone, which is defined as manufactured composite stone that contains resins and has a crystalline silica content of at least 80 per cent.
Engineered stone is commonly used as kitchen, bathroom and laundry benchtops.
The new obligations for persons in charge of work with engineered stone include:
Cutting, grinding and abrasive polishing of engineered stone with power tools is prohibited, unless the tool used:
1. Has an integrated water delivery system* that supplies a continuous feed of water (on-tool water suppression), or
2. Is fitted with on-tool extraction attached to a HEPA filtered dust class H vacuum cleaner (or similar system that captures the dust generated), or
If 1 or 2 not reasonably practicable:
3. Activities controlled through local exhaust ventilation (LEV), provided the system is sufficient to capture the dust at the source where it is generated and collects it in a manner that does not expose anyone to any dust, and
4. Workers to wear appropriate respiratory equipment.
Best Practice and WorkSafe Victoria Guidelines
Respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is to:
- Be designed to protect the wearer from the inhalation of airborne contaminants entering the nose, mouth and lungs.
- Comply with AS/NZS 1716 – Respiratory protective devices.
- To be at least a P2 filter.
- Be fit-tested to ensure correct facial fit for each worker.
- Where facial hair interferes with the fit of the respirator, a powered respirator that does not rely on a facial seal must be used.
- Be selected, used and maintained in accordance with AS/NZS 1715 – Selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment.
- Ensure employees are provided with information, instruction and training on how to use and maintain RPE.
- Employers to carry out regular air monitoring to ensure employee exposure is controlled.
Employers must provide health monitoring if exposure to crystalline silica is likely to affect their employees' health.
Employers should carry out health monitoring in all stone benchtop fabrication workplaces, unless air monitoring data shows that exposure is less than 0.02 mg/m3 as a time-weighted average (TWA) airborne concentration over 8 hours.
Respiratory protection is not mandated when fully automated cutting, grinding or polishing systems are used, if employee exposure levels are below the exposure standard.
Can you use handheld hoses?
Under the new regulations using a handheld hose (or other handheld water delivery device) to direct water at the cutting point is not considered to be an 'integrated water delivery system'.
What Should Employers Do?
In order to comply with the existing and new regulations on working with hazardous substances and engineered stone employers should:
1. Identify all engineered stone products used throughout their organisation (per product Safety Data Sheet).
2. Ensure a risk assessment is undertaken for all identified dust generating activities involving engineered stone.
3. Ensure appropriate controls are implemented to manage identified risks, including:
a) All power tools to have an integrated water delivery system, and/or compliant levels of dust extraction to prevent dust exposure.
b) Ensure all workers undertaking dust generating work have RPE which is at least P2, fit-tested to ensure RPE provides adequate levels of protection, is selected, used and maintained per relevant standards with all employees trained and instructed in correct fit, use, storage and handling of RPE
4. Undertake regular air monitoring.
5. Implement health monitoring program for all potentially exposed workers.
For more resources please contact the Safety Action office, in addition please find more information at the following resources:
- WorkSafe Victoria: Working with engineered stone Guide.
- Science of Safety Podcast: Episode 5: Silica in the Workplace – Part 1.
- Science of Safety Podcast: Episode 6: Silica in the Workplace – Part 2.
- Safety Action News: Benchtops Killing Tradies, October 2018.
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