Public comment sought on options for managing workplace exposure to silica dust

Safe Work Australia is seeking feedback on proposed policy options to manage the risks of exposure to respirable crystalline silica (silica dust) in Australian workplaces.

Through a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement published today, Safe Work Australia seeks to gather views on proposed regulatory and non-regulatory options to protect workers from silicosis and other diseases caused by exposure to silica dust.

Safe Work Australia Chief Executive Officer, Michelle Baxter, said silica dust is a significant health hazard for workers across a range of workplaces that process silica-containing materials such as engineered stone, natural stone and concrete.

“Workplace exposure to silica dust has led to an increase in the number of cases of silicosis and other silica-related diseases in Australia.

“Between 2010-11 and 2019-20 there were 412 accepted workers’ compensation claims for silicosis in the jurisdictions covered by the model WHS laws. I was a member of the National Dust Disease Taskforce which found that nearly one in four workers in the engineered stone sector have evidence of silicosis.”

Ms Baxter encourages the community and stakeholders to comment on the options outlined in the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement, including providing additional evidence and data on the extent of the problem and views on the effectiveness of the options. 

“We would like to hear from persons conducting a business or undertaking, work health and safety professionals, government agencies, industry and peak bodies, employer and worker representatives, and other parties interested in managing the risks of respirable crystalline silica at work.  

“The submissions and supporting evidence on the anticipated impacts will be used to evaluate the costs and benefits of the proposed options. 

“The submissions will inform the Decision Regulation Impact Statement provided to work health and safety ministers to assist them to decide the best course of action to reduce workplace exposure to silica dust and protect workers from silicosis and other silica related diseases.”

The Consultation Regulation Impact Statement is available on Safe Work Australia’s online consultation platform Engage. Submissions are open for six weeks and close at 11.59 pm (AEST) on Monday 15 August 2022.