With Australian governments, safety regulators and health authorities acting to target unsafe work practices where respirable crystalline silica (RCS) may be present, you must ensure your workplace is compliant with requirements for dust extraction and other health risk preventative measures.
Where vacuum cleaners/dust extraction are used to control airborne RCS on construction sites, they must be fit-for-purpose. This means acceptable options will depend on both the type of tool and the type of material being used. See the guide below:
- Construction dust – all power tools (including drills)
- M-class or H-class
- Construction dust – drills only
- Tool-mounted, HEPA-filtered dust collector
- Any work involving stone benchtops
- general purpose vacuum cleaners are not designed for use with hazardous dusts, even those fitted with a HEPA filter
- M & H-class vacuums and dust extractors meet the requirements of AS/NZS 60335.2.69:2017 Household and similar electrical appliances - Safety - Particular requirements for wet and dry vacuum cleaners, including power brush, for industrial and commercial use (IEC 60335.2.69 ED 5, MOD)
- consideration must also be given to ensuring dust does not become airborne when emptying and disposing of captured material.
All workers must pass a fit-test for the make and model of tight-fitting respirator they will use (both disposable and reusable, negative and positive pressure). During the fit-testing process, the individual must be clean-shaven where the respirator seals to the face. Fit-testing over facial hair is not in accordance with AS/NZS1715 and is not acceptable.
Facial hair (including beards, moustaches, sideburns and stubble) that lies along the sealing surface of the respirator will stop it sealing properly. This means that workers who are required to wear tight-fitting respirators must be clean-shaven or ensure there is no hair between their face and the seal of the respirator face piece.