What is crystalline silica
Crystalline silica is a natural mineral found in materials such as concrete, bricks, tiles, mortar and engineered stone. The list below contains common natural and manufactured products and their typical crystalline silica content:
- engineered stone: 40% to 95%
- sandstone: 70% to 90%
- granite: 25% to 60%
- ceramic tiles: 5% to 45%
- autoclaved aerated concrete: 20% to 40%
- slate: 20% to 40%
- concrete: less than 30%
- porcelain: 14% to 18%
- brick: 5% to 15%
- marble: less than 5%
These substances are not defined as hazardous substances in their solid form.
When these substances are mechanically processed (for example through cutting or grinding) crystalline silica dust is generated. These dust particles are small enough to be breathed deep into the lungs.
Exposure to crystalline silica dust over a long period of time at low to moderate levels, or short periods at high levels can lead to serious health conditions such as silicosis, which is an irreversible, incurable and progressive lung disease that can lead to disability and death.
Crystalline silica substances
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) define crystalline silica substance as any substance that:
- contains more than 1% crystalline silica, and
- is reasonably likely to be mechanically processed at a workplace, and
- is not in a respirable form
Manufacturer and supplier duties
Note: Part 4.5 (Crystalline silica) applies in addition to Part 4.1 (Hazardous Substances) of the OHS Regulations. Division 2 of Part 4.1 of the OHS Regulations also places duties on manufacturers and suppliers.
The duties of a manufacturer only apply to the manufacture of a crystalline silica substance at a workplace for sale or exchange to another workplace.
Providing information about crystalline silica substances
Manufacturers and suppliers of crystalline silica substances have a duty to provide information about crystalline silica substances.
A manufacturer or a supplier (including an importing supplier) of a crystalline silica substance must give information about the crystalline silica substance in writing to:
- any person to whom it is supplied, on or before the first occasion that the substance is supplied to that person; and
- on request, to an employer who proposes to use the substance at a workplace.
The information must include the following:
- the proportion of crystalline silica contained in the substance, expressed as a percentage
- the name, address and telephone number of the manufacturer or the importing supplier of the crystalline silica substance in Australia
- exposure controls, exposure standards, engineering controls and personal protection information in relation to the crystalline silica substance, and
- information relating to the handling and storage of the crystalline silica substance, including how the substance may be safely used
A safety data sheet (SDS) that includes all of the information outlined above is sufficient. For more information about SDSs, see the Hazardous substances compliance code.
Review and revise information provided
A manufacturer or supplier of a crystalline silica substance must also review and, if necessary, revise the information referred to above for that substance as often as is necessary to ensure the information is current and accurate, and at least every 5 years.
If a manufacturer or supplier of a crystalline silica substance revises information, they must give the revised information to any person to whom the substance is supplied on or before the first occasion that the substance is supplied to that person after the revision.
Suppliers of engineered stone duties
The OHS Regulations define engineered stone, which is a crystalline silica substance, as a manufactured composite stone material that contains:
- resins, and
- 40% or more crystalline silica
A supplier of engineered stone must record the name and address of any person to whom engineered stone is supplied and the name and quantity of the engineered stone supplied.
From 15 November 2022, employers or self-employed persons engaged in undertaking an engineered stone process at the workplace for which they are responsible must hold an engineered stone licence.
From 15 November 2022 suppliers of engineered stone must:
- not supply engineered stone to a person who requires an engineered stone licence and who is not an engineered stone licence holder, and
Note: This means that a supplier of engineered stone products must not supply the product to an employer or self-employed person who intends to carry out an engineered stone process (eg drilling, cutting, grinding or polishing) if the employer or self-person does not hold a current engineered stone licence.
A supplier is able to supply engineered stone to an employer or self-employed person who does not require a licence, for example, a distributor who is not undertaking any engineered stone processes themselves.
- record the licence number of the relevant engineered stone licence held by the person to whom engineered stone is supplied, and
Note: A licence number is only required to be recorded where the person to whom the engineered stone is supplied is required to hold a licence.
- keep a record of the name and address of any person to whom engineered stone is supplied and the name and quantity of the engineered stone supplied, and the licence number if applicable, for at least 5 years.