Quotes attributable to Safe Work Australia CEO Michelle Baxter:
“I welcome the decision by WHS ministers to agree to Safe Work Australia’s recommendations on action to reduce workplace exposure to respirable crystalline silica and prevent silicosis and silica-related diseases in Australia.
“Workplace exposure to respirable crystalline silica has led to an unacceptable increase in the number of cases of silicosis and other silica-related diseases.
“Today, Safe Work Australia commenced the next stage of consultation on a prohibition on the use of engineered stone. Consultation is open through Safe Work Australia’s Engage website until 2 April 2023.
“Stakeholder feedback from the consultation will inform a report to be provided to WHS ministers for their consideration.
“We will also work closely with WHS regulators and other stakeholders including industry and unions, to implement the options agreed by WHS ministers, including further national awareness and behaviour-change initiatives and regulation of high-risk crystalline silica processes for all materials, including engineered stone, and across all industries.
“I encourage all stakeholders to go to Safe Work Australia’s consultation website Engage to take part and have your say on a prohibition on the use of engineered stone.”
Safe Work Australia’s Decision Regulation Impact Statement: Managing the risks of respirable crystalline silica at work (Decision RIS) analysed the impacts of regulatory and non-regulatory options to manage the risks of respirable crystalline silica at work.
On 28 February 2023, WHS ministers considered the Decision RIS and agreed to the following options as recommended by Safe Work Australia:
- Option 2: National awareness and behaviour change initiatives.
- Option 5a: Regulation of high-risk crystalline silica processes for all materials (including engineered stone) across all industries.
- Option 6: Further analysis and consultation on the prohibition on use of engineered stone including consideration of silica content levels and other risk factors, and a national licensing system for products that are not subject to a ban, or legacy products.
The Decision RIS follows significant work undertaken by Safe Work Australia since 2018 to reduce exposure to respirable crystalline silica and prevent silicosis and silica-related diseases, including:
- reducing the workplace exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica
- publishing the Working with silica and silica containing products guide and translating this into six other languages
- publishing the model Code of Practice: Managing the risks of respirable crystalline silica from engineered stone in the workplace
- amending the model WHS Regulations to clarify that uncontrolled processing of engineered stone is prohibited, and
- undertaking the ‘Clean Air. Clear Lungs.’ campaign to raise awareness of occupational lung diseases, aimed at high-risk industries such as construction, agriculture, manufacturing and those working with engineered stone.
How common is silicosis?
Between 2010-11 and 2020-21 there were 488 accepted workers’ compensation claims for silicosis in the jurisdictions covered by the model WHS laws.
Who is Safe Work Australia?
Safe Work Australia is a national policy body with Members representing the Commonwealth, states and territories, as well as workers and employers. Our Members are supported by a small Commonwealth agency. We work to achieve healthier, safer and more productive workplaces through improvements to work health and safety (WHS) and workers’ compensation arrangements.
Information about our 15 Members can be found on the Our Members page on the Safe Work Australia website.
As a national policy body, we are not a regulator and do not enforce WHS or have a role in relation to compliance. Commonwealth, states and territories regulate and enforce WHS laws and administer workers’ compensation schemes in their jurisdictions.
Find more information on the Safe Work Australia website:
- Decision Regulation Impact Statement: Managing the risks of crystalline silica at work
- Crystalline silica and silicosis web page.
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