Respirable crystalline silica campaign
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) is conducting an awareness and enforcement campaign to support the introduction of the Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in construction and manufacturing of construction elements code of practice 2022. Inspectors will assess both construction sites and workplaces manufacturing construction elements.
Silicosis is a devasting, incurable lung disease that can be caused by breathing in respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Silicosis can lead to disability and death. It can also contribute to cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Silicosis can result from exposure to RCS over many years or from short-term extremely high exposure rates. The workplace exposure standard is 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre averaged over an eight-hour period.
RCS is dangerous because it is easy to breathe in; it is too small to see under normal lighting conditions; and it can stay in the air for hours after it has become airborne.
Tasks such as cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, polishing, scabbling and crushing using materials that contain 1% or more of crystalline silica can generate RCS. Other tasks like dry sweeping or using compressed air can also disturb settled dust containing RCS and make it airborne.
Australia’s first silica code of practice for the construction industry has been developed to provide practical guidance on how to protect workers by eliminating or minimising their exposure to RCS.
To reduce the risk of workers being exposed to RCS, WHSQ is conducting an awareness and engagement campaign throughout Queensland. All types of construction sites and manufacturers of construction elements will be targeted.
The code of practice applies to all construction work and the manufacturing of elements for use in construction work regardless of where the manufacturing is undertaken. The construction elements do not need to be manufactured on a construction site. Examples of construction elements are: cement, concrete, fibre-cement sheeting, bricks, tiles, blocks, pylons, pavers, mortar, asphalt, sand, stone, wall panels, geosynthetics, etc.
Inspectors will both assess your compliance with the code of practice and will also collect information on the selection of materials and how the silica content of materials affects the choices you make.
The campaign does not include the engineered and natural stone benchtop industry.
Enforcement action may be taken if uncontrolled hazards and risks are identified.
The campaign commenced on 1 May 2023.
Inspectors will ask you about:
- which WHSQ silica resources you have used
- the silica content of materials being used in tasks or activities that potentially could be generating RCS and why you selected those materials
- consultation with workers and health and safety representatives on controlling the risk of RCS.
Inspectors may ask to see:
- the RCS dust control plan at manufacturing workplaces
- safe work method statements for RCS generating activities on construction sites
- air monitoring reports
- health monitoring reports.
Inspectors will look at what controls you have in place to manage the risk of RCS and whether your controls are equivalent to or better than the controls identified in Appendix 4 of the code of practice. This includes checking whether the risk of exposure to RCS for nearby workers has been managed, and the use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment. Earth moving activities on construction sites that could create an RCS risk will also be looked at.
Where to get help
Campaign resources and a self-assessment tool are available prior to workplace visits to enable you to identify and assess your level of compliance before WHSQ inspectors visit.
- Self-assessment tool for construction (DOCX, 0.04 MB)
- Self-assessment tool for manufacturers (DOCX, 0.05 MB)
- Frequently asked questions
- Films and videos
Code of Practice
- Managing respirable crystalline silica dust exposure in construction and manufacturing of construction elements Code of Practice 2022
- Work health and safety consultation, co-operation and co-ordination code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.49 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
Contact WHSQ at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 362 128.