Cancer Council Australia has partnered with the Institution of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) to highlight the risks associated with exposure to silica dust.
The partnership has resulted in a series of free resources outlining safe practice when working with materials such as stone and tile that produce silica dust when cut, drilled, sanded, or otherwise disturbed.
One hundred times smaller than a grain of sand, silica dust particles are often inhaled without an individual realising, leading to a range of health issues. It is estimated that 600,000 Australians come into contact with it in the workplace each year, with 230 develop lung cancer annually due to past exposure.
Cancer Council Australia list 11 control measures for reducing the risks associated with silica dust exposure:
- Construction, planning and design through such measures as having materials cut to size off-site or using alternative materials.
- Using the correct equipment, particularly that featuring dust collection or suppression systems.
- Workshop ventilation.
- Abrasive blasting with slag products instead of sand.
- On-tool extraction with local exhaust ventilation (LEV) devices that fit onto handheld machines.
- Water suppression on both the material and tools (such as saw blades) when LEV is not suitable.
- Fitted respiratory protective equipment should be used in combination with other solutions, not as an alternative.
- Wear disposal clothing at work or, at least, clothing that does not get taken home to be washed.
- Quit smoking to ensure lungs can adequately expel any dust that may enter your system.
- Consider administration support through the likes of signage and staff rotation to ensure workers remain aware and protected.
- Clean up any dust with an industrial HEPA filter vacuum rather than with compressed air or by dry sweeping.
The release of the materials follows an announcement by the NSW government that it will move to halve the allowable amount of silica in workplace air from 0.1 milligrams per cubic metre to 0.05mg. Cancer Council has previously recommended 0.02mg per cubic metre as a safe level.
Silica is one of the cancer-causing carcinogens the IOSH is focusing on as part of its No Time to Lose occupational cancer campaign this Safe Work Month.
To explore the new resources provided by Cancer Council Australia and the IOSH, click here.
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