News & Views

22nd November 2021

Introduction of New Silica Safety Regulations November 2021

Victoria’s new Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2021 (the Regulations) came into effect on 15 November 2021.

These new laws have been introduced to better protect workers from exposure to respirable (breathable) crystalline silica.

Crystalline silica is a natural mineral found in many materials such as engineered stone, granite, sandstone, concrete, bricks, tiles, and mortar.  Engineered stone is often used in the construction of benchtops, flooring and tiles. This type of stone (also called reconstituted stone) can contain up to 95% crystalline silica, which can be hazardous to health if inhaled.

The new Regulations will strengthen the regulatory regime to better protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica in four key areas:

  1. Introducing Australia’s first licensing regime for engineered stone, including increased manufacturer and supplier duties

  2. Making permanent Victoria’s prohibition on uncontrolled dry-cutting of engineered stone and

  3. Adding additional regulatory oversight of high-risk crystalline silica work outside of engineered stone across all industries, including the construction and earth resources industries.

  4. Introduction of financial penalties for businesses/ officers who breech these Regulations.

The Regulations will be introduced in a phased approach, to ensure that all businesses and duty holders have enough time to prepare for the changes to their duties and obligations.

Under the new Regulations engineered stone will be considered to contain resins and at least 40% or more content of crystalline silica.

The Key Dates and Overview of the Requirements:

From Monday 15 November 2021:

  • the transition period of 12 months will commence for businesses who work with engineered stone to apply for and receive a licence to work with engineered stone, which requires them to: ensure employees are given information, instruction and training to control risks; provide health monitoring of employees, and; have an engineered control plan for working with engineered stone.

  • the commencement of specific controls to be used when working with engineered stone, including; the continued prohibition on dry-cutting; equipment such as on-tool water dust suppression or dust extraction devices being utilised, and; provision of applicable respiratory protection (including the use of, training etc) for the workers.

From Sunday 15 May 2022:

Commencement of high-risk crystalline silica work reform.

  • A business / officer in control must ensure that any work performed on any material containing silica that is likely to result in airborne respirable crystalline silica that: exceeds half the workplace exposure standard, OR provides a risk to the health of any person at the workplace, will, from Sunday 15 May 2022, require a crystalline silica hazard control statement to be prepared that outlines the hazards, risks and controls BEFORE the work commences.

    So essentially, this may require the assessment of risk of the work to be performed and then the preparation of a Safe Work Method Statement or SWMS before this work commences.

  • Also, additional manufacturer and supplier duties apply from this date, including provision of information on the product outlining the percentage (%) of silica content in the material to assist businesses in their assessment of workplace risk.

From Tuesday 15 November 2022:

  • All businesses working with engineered stone at this date must hold a licence to continue to perform work on engineered stone and suppliers will no longer be permitted to supply engineered stone to any business who requires a licence but does not have one.

  • As an example, from this date you will not be permitted to cut a hole in a ceaser stone splashback to install a power outlet, unless your business has an engineered stone licence.

 

Please note these important changes to OH&S laws and potential impacts to your business.

If you have any questions on OH&S matters in your workplace, please do not hesitate to contact the NECA safety team on 1300 300 031 or via email at Safety@neca.asn.au