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The workplace exposure standard (WES) for respirable crystalline silica (silica dust) has been reduced to 0.05 mg/m3. Your local WHS regulator can provide you with more information about when this change applies to you.

What is silica dust?

Crystalline silica is found in sand, stone, concrete and mortar. It is also used to make a variety of products, including engineered stone for kitchen and bathroom benchtops, bricks and tiles.

When workers cut, crush, drill, polish, saw or grind stone or products that contain crystalline silica, dust particles are generated. These dust particles, known as respirable crystalline silica or silica dust, are small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and cause illness or disease including silicosis.

What is a WES?

A WES represents the concentration of an airborne hazardous chemical (for example, respirable crystalline silica) within a worker’s breathing zone that should not cause adverse health effects or undue harm. Compliance with the WES is required under Commonwealth, state and territory WHS laws

This means that your workers must not be exposed to levels of silica dust greater than 0.05 mg/m3 over an eight hour working day, for a five day working week.

Check in with your local WHS regulator to see if they have introduced any new regulations for silica dust in addition to reducing the WES. 

What does the reduced WES mean for you?

If you are a person conducting a business or undertaking (for example, an employer or small business owner), you may need to implement additional control measures or make changes to your workplace procedures so that the WES for silica dust is not exceeded.

Here are five things you can do to help protect your workers from exposure to silica dust:

  1. Assess the risk of silica dust at your workplace. 
  2. Review the control measures you have in place to minimise your workers’ exposure to silica dust. 
  3. Arrange for air monitoring if you are unsure how high the silica dust levels are at your workplace. 
  4. Talk to your workers and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) about the reduced WES, how it might impact your workplace and any new training your workers might need.
  5. Review your worker’s health monitoring program if there is silica dust at your workplace, including workers who generate silica dust or those who work near it. 

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