PCBUs, workers and other persons at the workplace have duties under the model WHS laws, including the duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety at the workplace.
There are duties under the model WHS laws to control the risks of working with silica and silica containing products if you are:
- a PCBU at a workplace where silica dust is present, or an officer of that business or undertaking, or
- a designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier or installer of silica and silica-containing products.
A person can have more than one duty and more than one person can have the same duty at the same time.
A workplace includes any place where work is carried out and includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work. This may include offices, factories, shops, construction sites, vehicles or homes.
PCBUs and officers
If you have management or control over workers, you are likely to be a PCBU or an officer.
A PCBU can be a:
- unincorporated body or association
- sole trader, or
- self-employed person.
Individuals who are in a partnership that is conducting a business will individually and collectively be a PCBU.
PCBUs have the primary duty of care for the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace.
Officers, such as company directors, have a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that the business or undertaking complies with the WHS laws. This includes making sure that the business or undertaking has and uses appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise the risks of working with silica and silica containing products. This includes:
- identifying the hazard of silica dust
- controlling the risk of exposure to silica dust
- conducting air monitoring, and
- providing health monitoring for workers.
Workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and they must take reasonable care that their acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons. Workers must:
- comply as far as they are reasonably able, with any work health and safety instructions from you as the PCBU, and
- co-operate with any reasonable policy or procedure relating to work health and safety that you as the PCBU put in place, including health monitoring, if they have been told about it beforehand.
Silica dust can cause serious illness and disease. Workers must participate in health monitoring and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as instructed by a PCBU.
When discussing health and safety matters with workers, a consultative approach should be taken to allow workers a reasonable opportunity to express views before any decision is made. If a worker refuses to participate in health monitoring or refuses to use PPE as they have been trained and instructed, you as the PCBU may take action to meet your duties under the WHS laws. This could include removing the worker from the source of exposure.
Manufacturers, designers, importers and suppliers
Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of silica containing products must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the plant or substance is without risks to health and safety. This duty includes carrying out testing and analysis of the product and providing specific information about the product. This information can be provided in the form of a label, product information sheet or a safety data sheet (SDS). Important information that must be provided includes:
- the amount of crystalline silica in the product
- the hazardous properties and risks to health of silica dust, and
- the health and safety precautions that must be taken when fabricating, installing, maintaining or removing silica containing products.
Suppliers of hired equipment (such as hand held water fed power tools or respiratory protective equipment) should take all reasonable steps to ensure appropriate information about the safe use of the equipment is available.
Manufacturers do not have a duty to provide safety data sheets (SDS) for solid products that contain silica, such as engineered stone, brick or tiles. However, it is a good practice to make them available.
WHS laws in your state or territory
The Commonwealth, state and territory WHS regulators are responsible for enforcing the WHS laws. They make decisions about whether you are in compliance with the requirements.
The WHS laws are not exactly the same in each state and territory. If you need help please contact your state or territory WHS regulator.