Managing respirable crystalline silica
Dust containing respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is generated by high-energy processes such as cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, polishing, scabbling and crushing of silica-containing materials.
On this page:
- Workplace exposure standard
- For benchtop industry
- For medical practitioners
- For construction industry
- For abrasive blasting
- For people with work-related respiratory diseases
- Related links
Reduction in workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica
The national workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica has been halved from an eight hour time-weighted average airborne concentration of 0.1 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3) to 0.05 mg/m3. This new workplace exposure standard takes effect in Queensland from 1 July 2020.
Managing respirable crystalline silica in benchtop fabrication
Engineered and natural stone used for bench tops contains crystalline silica, also called quartz. Cutting, grinding and polishing natural or engineered stone generates respirable crystalline silica, which puts workers' health at risk. Engineered stone bench tops have a very high crystalline silica content, up to 95 per cent.
Safety alert: Immediate action required to prevent exposure to silica for engineered stone benchtop workers
Workers may be exposed to crystalline silica while cutting, grinding, sanding and polishing stone bench tops and during the installation process. Generally, exposure to RCS occurs during manufacture of the stone benchtop rather than during installation due to less cuts and fabrication taking place.
Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry code of practice(PDF, 935.11 KB)
This code provides practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to manage risks associated with respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the stone benchtop industry. This includes work to fabricate, process, install, maintain or remove engineered and natural stone benchtops.
Silicosis in the engineered stone benchtop industry
WorkCover Queensland provides free health screening for current or former engineered stone benchtop workers in Queensland who have been exposed to engineered stone.
Silicosis and support for stonemasonry workers and employers
WorkCover is supporting stonemasons by ensuring they get immediate access to specialist medical diagnosis, treatment and ongoing rehabilitations and return to work services.
Guideline for assessing stone workers exposed to silica(PDF, 251.77 KB)
This guideline assists medical practitioners to identify silica-related respiratory disease in engineered stone industry workers.
Construction dust: respirable crystalline silica
Dust containing respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is generated by high-energy processes such as cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, polishing, scabbling and crushing of silica-containing materials. Certain work processes can also create RCS exposure risks, including housekeeping activities involving dry sweeping, compressed air or blowers on silica-containing dusts.
Abrasive blasting: General health and safety issues
Abrasive blasting with sand, also called sand blasting, is prohibited in Queensland workplaces.
Support for people with work-related respiratory diseases
Are you concerned that dust in the workplace may be causing coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath? WorkCover Queensland's dedicated team can help you lodge a claim or answer any questions you may have.
- Fit-testing requirements for tight-fitting respirators(PDF, 883 KB)
- Local exhaust ventilation (LEV)
- Respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
- Health monitoring
- Work-related respiratory diseases
- Construction work health forum encore webinar series
- Call for comments on workplace exposure standards
- Silica audits for engineered stone benchtop fabricators
- New code to be developed for silica dust in stone benchtop industry
- Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the construction industry - Information for employers (PDF, 205.93 KB)
- Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in the construction industry - Information for workers (PDF, 204.73 KB)
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland reports
- Tunnelling road header and related operations: dust conditions and their control(PDF, 152.09 KB)
- Tunnelling road header operations: dust conditions and their control (summary report)(PDF, 104.1 KB)
Safe Work Australia guidance:
- Crystalline silica - Hazardous Chemicals Requiring Health Monitoring
- Health Monitoring for Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals - Guide for workers
- Health Monitoring for Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals - Guide for persons conducting a business or undertaking
Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) Guidance:
- Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) Position Paper on Respirable Crystalline Silica
- Find an occupational hygienist
HSE (UK) guidance:
- Last updated
- 13 May 2020