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Silica Dust Alert

Updated: Sep 7, 2019

SILICOSIS HEALTH STATISTICS

According to the Cancer Council about 587,000 Australian workers were exposed to silica dust while on the job in 2011. About 5758 of those are estimated to develop lung cancer in the future as a result of that exposure.


WHAT IS IT?

Crystalline silica, commonly called silica, is a natural mineral found in construction materials such as concrete, bricks, tiles, mortar and engineered stone. It can be released when you cut, grind, sand, saw, drill, load, transport, dump or simply disturb materials that contain crystalline silica.


EXAMPLES OF EXPOSURE ON CONSTRUCTION SITES

Exposure to crystalline silica can occur during common construction tasks such as working with concrete, brick, mortar, tiles, stone or other masonry. The amount of crystalline silica in products can vary.

Examples include:

  • brick: 5-15%

  • concrete: less than 30%

  • ceramic tiles: 5-45%

  • reconstituted stone: more than 80%

If you’re not sure if a product contains crystalline silica, check the safety data sheet (SDS).


HEALTH RISKS

Silica dust can be harmful when it’s inhaled into your lungs over a long period of time at low to moderate levels, or short periods at high levels.

Exposure can lead to:

  • silicosis - irreversible stiffening of the lungs

  • lung cancer

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

  • kidney disease

HOW CAN YOU CONTROL EXPOSURE?

Employers must control the risks of employee exposure to crystalline silica dust. Control measures include:

  • Request that cutting be done off site in a controlled manner

  • Use tools with water suppression

  • Wear a fit for purpose respirator

  • Use on tool extraction

  • Specify low content silica substrates be used where possible

  • Separate workers from the dust source, by distance

  • Ensure clean up and housekeeping processes do not generate dust (use damp sawdust method). Do not dry sweep or use compressed air.

MORE INFO click here: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/crystalline-silica-safety-basics


WHEN DO YOU NEED TO DO AIR MONITORING? -

  • When you are unsure if workers are exposed to levels of silica dust that are above the exposure standard, or -

  • When you are unsure if there is a risk to workers

MORE INFO LINK: www.cancer.org.au/content/Preventingcancerworkplace/2017/SilicaDust03112017V6 WorkSafe Victoria info sheet: MORE INFO LINK: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/crystalline-silica-safety-basics