SafeWork Australia publishes new silica guidelines

SafeWork Australia has published new guideline materials for working with silica based products in the aim of preventing further development of the occupational lung disease silicosis.

These guidelines come following a recent surge in Silicosis diagnoses within Australia, for a total of 260 confirmed cases across the nation.

Queensland in particular accounts for almost two thirds of the cases, a number which has more than tripled since November of last year.

Government intervention has increased alongside publicization of the disease, including the banning the uncontrolled dry-cutting of engineered stone and providing health screenings for workers exposed to Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS).

The new WorkSafe Australia guide incorporates all current model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws to best ensure that workers are safe from the risks of RCS dust.

By following the guide as far as is reasonably practicable, the identification of RCS hazards and implementation of control measures aims to mitigate the potential damage of silica dust.

However only so much can be done without a complete ban on engineered stone products.

The new guidelines serve as a reminder that ventilation, respiratory protection, and wet cutting may not be enough. Silica dust can still adhere to clothes, and silica sludge can harden back into a powder, stressing the importance of decontamination.

Dr Robert Cohen, an occupational and environmental medicine expert, has been advising the Queensland Government on silicosis prevention measures.

“This is a disease that we know is 100 per cent preventable.”

For more information on the new guidelines visit SafeWork Australia’s website.

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