High risk crystalline silica work and duties of manufacturers and suppliers commence on 15 May 2022

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) were amended in November 2021 to better protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

Background

Part 4.5 – Crystalline silica of the OHS Regulations aim to eliminate (so far as reasonably practicable) the risk of adverse health effects from work involving exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

To achieve this, the OHS Regulations:

  • make permanent Victoria's prohibition on uncontrolled dry-cutting of engineered stone; 
  • introduce Australia's first licensing regime for engineered stone; 
  • increase manufacturer and supplier duties; and
  •  include additional regulatory oversight of high risk crystalline silica work outside of engineered stone across all industries, including the construction and earth resources industries.

These amendments are being introduced in phases to ensure duty holders are provided with enough time to ensure they are prepared for the relevant changes to their duties and obligations. 

Requirements that commence on 15 May 2022

  • High risk crystalline silica work – Identification and management.
  • Duties of manufacturers and suppliers.
  • Provision of information for high risk crystalline silica work.

Information about the requirements

What is a crystalline silica process?

The OHS Regulations define a ‘crystalline silica process’ as one or more of the following processes carried out at a workplace:

  1. the use of a power tool or other forms of mechanical plant to
    • cut, grind, polish or crush material containing crystalline silica or
    • carry out any other activity involving material that containing crystalline silica that generates crystalline silica dust
  2. the use of a roadheader on an excavated face if the material in the face contains crystalline silica
  3. a process that exposes a person to crystalline silica dust arising from the manufacture or handling of material that contains crystalline silica
  4. the mechanical screening of crushed material containing crystalline silica
  5. a quarrying process involving material containing crystalline silica
  6. a tunnelling process involving material containing crystalline silica
  7. a process determined by the Authority to be a crystalline silica process

High risk crystalline silica work – Are my crystalline silica processes ‘high risk’?

From 15 May 2022, if you or your workers are carrying out a crystalline silica process or processes, you must identify whether those processes meet the definition of ‘high risk crystalline silica work’.

These new obligations are in addition to existing obligations for work that is a crystalline silica process or an engineered stone process.

Under the OHS Regulations, high risk crystalline silica work is defined as work performed in connection with a crystalline silica process that is reasonably likely to result in:

  1. an airborne concentration of respirable crystalline silica that exceeds half the exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica or
  2. a risk to the health of a person at the workplace

How do I identify if my crystalline silica processes are ‘high risk’?

You can undertake a risk assessment in accordance with the OHS Regulations to identify whether the crystalline silica process or combination of processes that you perform are high risk crystalline silica work.

Alternatively, you can choose to identify these processes as high risk crystalline silica work without undertaking the risk assessment process. You may choose to do this where you have formed the belief that the crystalline silica process or processes you perform will clearly meet the definition of high risk crystalline silica work outlined above.

If you choose to carry out the risk assessment, it must be completed in accordance with the process outlined in the OHS Regulations. You must take into account the following:

  1. the specific tasks or processes required to be undertaken with material containing crystalline silica
  2. the form of crystalline silica to be used
  3. the proportion of crystalline silica contained in the material
  4. previous atmospheric monitoring results
  5. the likely frequency and duration of exposure to crystalline silica dust
  6. any information about incidents, illnesses or diseases associated with exposure to crystalline silica dust at the workplace

You must also make a written record that describes how you have taken the above matters into account during your risk assessment, and then identifies whether or not the crystalline silica process or processes have been assessed as high risk crystalline silica work.

The record of high risk crystalline silica work must also be kept for the duration of time that the crystalline silica processes or combination of processes is undertaken at the workplace. It must also be readily available to any employee who may be exposed to crystalline silica dust, as well as to the health and safety representative of any affected designated work group.

If after completing the risk assessment you are still unsure as to whether the crystalline silica process or processes is high risk crystalline silica work, you must treat that process or processes as high risk unless you are able to identify them as not being high risk crystalline silica work.

I’ve identified that the crystalline silica processes I undertake are high risk crystalline silica work; now what?

From 15 May 2022, an employer or a self-employed person must not perform high risk crystalline silica work unless:

  1. crystalline silica hazard control statement (CSHCS) is prepared for the work before the work commences and
  2. the work is performed in accordance with that statement

High risk crystalline silica work must be performed in accordance with the CSHCS; if it is not, that work must stop, or as soon as it is safe to do so, and must not resume until it is done in a way that complies with the CSHCS or the CSHCS is revised in accordance with the OHS Regulations. The CSHCS must be reviewed and revised by the employer or self-employed person undertaking the high risk crystalline silica work whenever the work changes, or, if there is an indication that risk control measures are not controlling the risks adequately, including after any incident that occurs during high risk silica work.

A copy of the CSHCS must be kept for the duration of the of the high risk crystalline silica work for which the statement is prepared.

There is also a specific duty to provide information, instruction and training to employees who are likely to be exposed to risks associated with high risk crystalline silica work. That information, instruction and training must cover:

  1. the health risks associated with exposure to crystalline silica dust and
  2. the need for, and proper use of, any risk control measures required and
  3. how the risk control measures are to be implemented

An employer must also provide information to job applicants who apply for employment with an employer that involves high risk crystalline silica work. That information must include:

  1. the health risks associated with exposure to crystalline silica dust and
  2. the need for, and details of, measures to control those risks

Additionally, from 15 May 2022, if a quarrying or tunnelling process involves high risk crystalline silica work, an employer or a self-employed person is required to, before the work commences, collect samples of materials to be used in the quarrying or tunnelling process and arrange for analysis of those samples to identify the proportion of crystalline silica contained in each sample.

What is a crystalline silica hazard control statement (CSHCS)?

A CSHCS is a document that is prepared by an employer or self-employed person to cover any high risk crystalline silica work performed at their workplace, that:

  1. states the hazards and risks associated with that work and
  2. sufficiently describes measures to control those risks 
  3. describes how the risk control measures are to be implemented and
  4. if an analysis is required under regulation 319O, contains the results of that analysis and
  5. is set out and expressed in a way that is readily accessible and comprehensible to the persons who use it

If the high risk crystalline silica work is also classified as high risk construction work under the OHS Regulations (for example, demolition work that generates crystalline silica dust), and a safe work method statement (SWMS) has been prepared for that work that addresses the matters required to be contained within a CSHCS, then a separate CSHCS is not required.

Are you a manufacturer or supplier of products containing crystalline silica?

From 15 May 2022, if you manufacture or supply products containing crystalline silica (a crystalline silica substance) you must provide the following information, in writing, to any person to whom the crystalline silica substance is supplied (on or before the first occasion the substance is supplied to that person) and to any employer who proposes to use the crystalline silica substance at a workplace (upon request):

  1. the proportion of crystalline silica in the substance, expressed as a percentage
  2. the name, address and telephone number of the manufacturer (in Australia) or the importing supplier (in Australia)
  3. any exposure controls, exposure standards, engineering controls and personal protection information in relation to the crystalline silica substance and
  4. information relating to the handling and storage of the crystalline silica substance including how it may be safely used

You will also need to review, and if necessary revise, this information as often as needed and at least every five years. If the information is revised you must give a copy of 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.

Further Information

More detailed guidance will soon be available on the WorkSafe website to further assist you with your duties and obligations. In the meantime, if you have any questions please call our Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 7.30am to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday.

For information in your own language call TIS National on 13 14 50.