Getting across the new silica dust code of practice
The construction industry in Queensland now has Australia’s first code of practice for the management of respirable crystalline silica (RCS).
The code came into effect from 1 May 2023, and sets out how to manage the risks associated with exposure to RCS — which has been linked to serious occupational lung diseases such as silicosis.
According to Craig Dearling, General Manager – Workforce Services, Master Builders Queensland, the new code provides guidance on how persons in control of a business or undertaking (PCBUs) can safely manage RCS, and comply with their general duty of ensuring the health and safety of people at work. While the local construction and building industry has been quick to understand and adopt preventative measures and mitigate the risks associated with RCS exposure, there is still work to be done.
“On the whole, our members take active steps to ensure health and safety at work and genuinely care about the impact on their workers. However, there are challenges in the context of an industry made up of so many small businesses that have a large number of legislative and regulatory obligations to fulfil. Many of these small businesses don’t have dedicated professionals within their workforce to ensure compliance,” Dearling said.
What can be done to reduce the risks associated with RCS exposure?
According to Dearling, there are three practical steps that employers can take to mitigate the risk.
- Refer closely to Appendix 4 of the new code of practice, which contains a ‘controls table’ outlining what controls should be used for a range of different tasks. “It also explains when respiratory protective equipment is required, and when health monitoring of workers might be required. It’s a handy resource to refer to for specific, practical advice,” Dearling said.
- Familiarise themselves with the available information on high-risk products, identify potential hazards, and implement appropriate and effective controls to mitigate risks.
- Call in professional health and safety advisors, like those at Master Builders, before performing any work where they are unsure about the RCS hazards and how to mitigate them.
Dearling will be presenting at the Workplace Health and Safety Show, taking place in Brisbane from 31 May to 1 June 2023. His presentation, ‘Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust Exposure in Construction — Risks and Challenges’, is part of the Knowledge Centre line-up on 1 June 2023. This session will provide practical tips and advice on the risks and challenges associated with RCS. The show takes place at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Interested professionals can view the complete program and register for free, at https://www.whsshow.com.au/brisbane.
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