NSW is set to lower the silica workplace exposure standard (WES) in a bid to better protect those working with manufactured stone, sandstone and building products.
The announcement, made 21 October, follows Safe Work Australia’s recommendation to reduce the Australian WES from 0.1 to 0.05 mg/m3, according to NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson.
The NSW Government will also “support Safe Work Australia undertaking further research on whether a reduction to 0.02 mg/m3 is achievable”, he said. To help encourage employers to improve safety controls, the government will “boost safety rebates available to the manufactured stone industry, by introducing an industry-specific safety rebate of $1000 until June 2020”.
“There is now no reason for NSW workplaces to not have the necessary safety controls in place. This increased grant will allow those most at risk from coming into contact with silica to have access to the best methods of wet cutting, ventilation, dust collection and respirators,” Anderson said.
“With the implementation of the new exposure standard and access to increased rebates, manufactured stone fabricators will be expected to achieve compliance or face tough new penalties that the NSW Government will soon introduce. SafeWork NSW has visited every manufactured stone site in NSW and, following another blitz to ensure employers are aware of the updated standards, inspectors will be able to issue on-the-spot fines for non-compliance in addition to shutting worksites down.
“Silicosis is entirely preventable with the correct safety measures in place, which is why the NSW Government supports the reduction of the acceptable exposure standard so that we can better protect people who work with products containing silica. The NSW Government developed a comprehensive five-year strategy to address silicosis after identifying it as a major concern more than two years ago. The strategy includes awareness and education, business rebates, conducting research and reviewing regulations.”
Site visits and education initiatives will increase every year until 30 June 2022 to reach the target of 9000 interactions with NSW businesses working with silica by the end of SafeWork NSW’s five-year Chemicals Strategy in 2022, according to the regulator.
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