Silica Safety Management
– protect your people from silica exposure
Silica dust exposure can be deadly
Silica is a natural mineral that is found in a range of building materials including, stone, engineered stone, tiles, concrete, bricks and mortar. Stonemasons and tilers are at particularly high risk of silica dust exposure because much of their work involves the cutting and polishing of products with high amounts of silica in them.
||Typical silica crystalline content
|Reconstituted or engineered stone
||70% to 90%
||30% to 45%
||25% to 40%
||20% to 40%
||Less than 5%
Silica dust can be incredibly harmful when it is inhaled into your lungs – at low to moderate levels over a long period of time, or at high levels over a short period time. Silica exposure can and does lead to silicosis (irreversible damage to the lungs), lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and kidney disease.
Australian Silica Exposure Standard
Currently, the Australian Exposure Standard for airborne crystalline silica (silica dust) is 0.1mg/m3 over an 8 hour period – this can equate to as little as 15 minutes of cutting or polishing reconstituted or engineered stone without the right safety measures in place.
However, it is likely that the Australian Exposure Standard will be cut by 75% to 0.025mg/m3, inline with many other countries around the world. There are a number of individuals and groups lobbying for this reduction and last year the Victorian Trades Hall Council launched a silica standard of 0.025mg/m3.
Limiting silica exposure
– Safety Management essentials for Stonemasons and Tilers
To comply with silica exposure standards and limit your people’s exposure to silica dust you need to:
1. Use water suppression and wet cutting methods – wherever practical.
2. Ensure effective dust extraction when wet methods aren’t practical (eg onsite).
3. Provide Personal Protective Equipment and respiratory protection.
4. Ensure safe practices are used to clean up dust.
5. Be aware of dust on clothing – vacuum and at work.
6. Monitor employee’s health, under supervision of a medical practitioner.
7. Provide training and education about the risks of silica exposure and managing them.