NSCA Foundation

Shielding workers from respirable dust in quarry operations


Wednesday, 25 March, 2020


Shielding workers from respirable dust in quarry operations

The NSW Resources Regulator has released a targeted intervention program (TIP) report into respirable dust in quarry operations. The report summarises the findings of assessments undertaken in relation to the hazard of respirable dust in NSW quarry operations, which started in September 2019 and involved 24 mines. Respirable dust can be generated during quarry operation activities such as extraction, drilling, crushing, screening, hauling, and stockpiling aggregates and construction materials. The report contends that quarry workers could be exposed to inhalable and respirable crystalline silica dust, which can pose a serious health risk to people. The TIP process identified many common issues around the approach taken by the sites to manage the hazard of dust. The report also highlighted broader issues across mine sites associated with the process of developing, implementing and reviewing the risk assessments, management plants and procedures.

The findings of the assessments are grouped into those that are specific to the hazard and those that could be applied to all aspects of critical control measure implementation. All mines are encouraged to review their procedures and practices in consideration of the findings from this report. The findings from the report revealed that risk assessments to identify the risks and controls for dust on sites often were not carried out, did not identify all activities that generate dust or had not been reviewed. Moreover, the findings highlighted the lack of awareness among workers about the risks to their health from exposure to dust at quarry operations.

The assessment team found that although maintainers and supervisors were particularly vulnerable to dust due to the nature of their work, no additional information, training or instruction was provided to them. The induction processes also lacked information, training and instruction to workers on the risks to their health from exposure to dust. Often, the risk assessments for dust did not include a cross-section of the workforce and did not include those workers or similar exposure groups who were at increased risk due to the work they performed (eg, contractors). Specific findings revealed that the procedure for personal protective equipment did not state the mandatory respiratory protective equipment required for tasks and areas of the mine where workers are at increased risk due to exposure to dust.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Tanes

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