New Silica Standard Welcomed

Today Safe Work Australia has published a revised Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants which will include a revised standard for respirable crystalline silica to an average of .05mg/m3 reduced from the current standard of .1mg/m3.

Following the devastating discovery of silicosis affecting hundreds of workers from the artificial stone industry Australian governments met in November and agreed to the new standard.
Unfortunately, due to Western Australia not yet to adopting harmonised Work, Health and Safety laws the standard cannot be automatically applied here. The laws were recently introduced into parliament by the McGowan Government [1].
Exposure to silica dust is commonly caused through working with artificial stone such as kitchen benchtops and in mining and construction.

Owen Whittle, Assistant Secretary UnionsWA said:

“The lowering of the silica exposure standard is welcomed and if enforced will reduce the cases of lung cancer and silicosis from the artificial stone industry. 

‘While the union preferred standard of 0.02mg/3 was not adopted by Safe Work Australia, the 0.05mg/3 standard is a step in the right direction to ensure that workers are better protected

‘The artificial stone benchtop industry has caused considerable harm to workers in Western Australia and it is horrifying that at least five working West Australians have been diagnosed with silicosis.

‘We also know that for every diagnosis of Silicosis there will likely be many others will be suffering from lung cancer and other silica related diseases for years to come.

‘Unfortunately, the standard will not be applied automatically in Western Australia due to the 8 year delay to adopt the model Work, Health and Safety laws.

‘It is vital that our health and safety system is modernised next year and that the parliament passes the Work, Health and Safety bill.

‘However in the meantime every effort needs to be made to ensure this standard applies as soon as possible to ensure that WA workers are afforded the same protection of other Australian workers."

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[1] https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2019/08/New-workplace-safety-laws-and-more-safety-initiatives-to-better-protect-workers.aspx


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