4.5 Crystalline Silica

Following extensive concerns that workers in the rapidly growing engineered stone industry were being exposed to extremely high levels of crystalline silica, on May 1 2019 the Premier and the Workplace Safety Minister announced a ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of such materials. Interim regulations on crystalline silica were then declared and took effect for one year on August 20, 2019. This was been further extended to November 19, 2021

Part 4.5 Crystalline Silica: regulation 319A - 319C. Below is a summary.

319A Application of Part

Specifies that this Part applies for the period 20 August 2019 to 19 August 2020. More importantly, it also specifies that this Part applies in addition to Part 4.1 (Hazardous Substances).

319B Definitions

There are four definitions here:

  • Dust class H Vacuum - specifies a particular type of vacuum which must comply with the relevant AS/NZ standard
  • engineered stone - a manufactured composite stone containing resins and with a crystalline silica content of 80 per cent or greater
  • local exhaust ventilation - an engineering control that reduces worker exposure to airborne contaminants by capturing emissions at source
  • respiratory protective equipment -ppe that is designed to protect wearer from inhalation of airborne contaminants and complies with relevant AS/NZ standard

319C Use of power tools - engineered stone

Under this regulation, an employer, self-employed person, or person who manages a or controls a workplace must ensure that a power tool is used for cutting, grinding or abrasive polishing of engineered stone unless the use is controlled. The use of a power tool is controlled if - 

  1. it is used with: an integrated water delivery system supplying a continuous water feed; or a commercially available on tool extraction system connected to a Dust Class H Vacuum or other suitable system; or if neither of these are practicable, a local exhaust system; AND
  2. the person undertaking the work is provided with respiratory protective equipment

An employer, etc, must ensure that any controls are properly designed, installed, used and maintained so that they are effective in reducing exposure to airborne crystalline silica dust generated as a result of the work.

Exposure Standard

UPDATE 2020: the current Australian standard is now 0.05mg/m3 - this has now been adopted in a number of jurisdictions, including Victoria.