The Cancer Council says approximately 587,000 Australian workers were exposed to silica dust while on the job in 2011. Of these, 5,758 are estimated to develop lung cancer in the future as a result of that exposure.

Silica dust is harmful when inhaled into your lungs. As it is 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, you can be breathing it in without knowing.

You may be exposed to silica dust if your work involves:

  • breaking, crushing, grinding, or milling silica-containing material
  • using or fitting some plastic composite products
  • moving earth e.g. excavating, mining, quarrying, tilling or tunneling
  • sand blasting
  • brick-laying
  • sand casting
  • paving, surfacing, and cement finishing
  • mineral-ore treating processes
  • laying, maintaining, or replacing ballast
  • road construction
  • demolition
  • stone masonry
  • manufacture of glass, ceramics, concrete, tile, coke, metals, steel metal casting, or mineral products
  • drilling, cutting, chiseling or sanding silica-containing material
  • handling, mixing or shoveling dry silica-containing material

Stone benchtop workers at high risk for silica exposure

Tragically, Gold Coast stonemason, Anthony White, became the first Queensland worker from the engineered stone industry to die from the lung disease silicosis last week, amid what experts are calling a “nationwide epidemic.” Bravely, Anthony publicly exposed the dangers of being exposed to silica dust at work.

See more on silica dust and silicosis risk in the engineered stone industry.

Health monitoring for silica dust

Work Health Professionals provide onsite health monitoring for silica in Perth and WA.

WHS Regulations state that health monitoring must be provided to workers who are continually working with silica dust and there is a significant risk to the worker’s health. Safe Work Australia’s crystalline silica health monitoring guide outlines how to monitor workers exposed to silica dust. It can help to detect loss in lung function before permanent damage occurs.

Health monitoring for silica should be done before a worker starts a new role, and at least every three years (yearly for high-risk jobs).

The minimum health monitoring requirements for crystalline silica include:

  • collection of demographic, medical and occupational history
  • records of personal exposure
  • standardised respiratory questionnaire
  • standardised respiratory function tests, for example, FEV1, FVC and FEV1/FVC, and
  • chest X-Ray full PA view (baseline and high risk workers only).

Air monitoring for silica dust

We also conduct air monitoring to measure the levels of silica dust exposure in your workplace.

The mandatory limit for silica dust exposure in Australia is 0.1mg/m3 averaged over an eight hour day, although the ACGIH have recommended this be limited to 0.025mg/m3. Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulation 50 states air monitoring must be conducted every 12-18 months if there is a health and safety risk or if there is potential of exceeding the exposure limit.

We’d be happy to talk about your requirements and answer any questions.

silicosis risk at work