SA businesses heed warnings about silica dust exposure

Thursday, 16 September, 2021

SA businesses heed warnings about silica dust exposure

SafeWork SAhas released an audit report on its compliance campaign into businesses working with silica-containing materials, detailing the campaign’s key findings and recommendations. The compliance campaign took place from 1 October 2020 to 1 April 2021 and focused on respirable crystalline silica (RCS) exposure risks and controls in the construction and mining industry. The campaign was based on the proactive RCS compliance campaign undertaken by SafeWork SA in 2019 and supports the Government of South Australia Strategy for Respirable Crystalline Silica Exposure Awareness and Reduction 2020.

The second audit broadened the scope of the campaign to include monumental stonemasons, as well as mining and quarry sites, as workers in those industries are at more risk of being exposed to RCS. During the campaign, SafeWork SA conducted 199 site visits and 71 compliance audits. A total of 102 statutory notices were issued where breaches of work health and safety legislation were identified, consisting of 95 improvement notices and seven prohibition notices. The largest area of non-compliance identified was the failure to conduct air monitoring to determine whether the controls in place effectively minimised the exposure of workers to RCS.

In comparison to the 2019 audits, 25 fabricators improved their compliance, with most maintaining their safe systems of work associated with RCS controls. The compliance campaign revealed that 11 construction PCBUs increased their compliance with documented safe systems of work and Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS). Construction activities that expose workers to a risk of silica are classed as high risk construction work, requiring a SWMS to be completed. SafeWork SA will carry out a follow-up compliance audit campaign in late 2021, focusing on Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) for high risk construction work.

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