New Silica Exposure Standard of 0.05mg/m³ over 3 years leaves many wanting
This Wednesday, SafeWork Australia voted on the future of Australia's silica standard.
Victorian Trades Hall Council has long advocated for a strong reduction to the silica exposure standard, which has long been at 0.1mg/m³. Over the past few years, as engineered stone bench tops became more and more commonplace in kitchens, workers were becoming exposed to higher levels of silica dust than ever before.
As a direct result, hundreds of Australian workers were struck down with silicosis, a degenerative disease that slowly rots at the lungs of young workers, over the course of many years, until eventually many are left only with the option of lung transplantation.
The goal heading in to the vote was 0.02mg/m³ - a 80% reduction of the outdated silica exposure standard and a number backed by the Cancer Council, the Victorian Government and VTHC. The office of Victorian Premiere Daniel Andrews had also released a media statement in support of 0.02mg/m³ a However we knew we would come up against strong push back from industry, and there was.
Lobbying from mining industry representatives and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has led to 0.05mg/m³ being the new exposure standard, to be rolled out over the next 3 years.
However, going forward, Trades hall and the Cancer Council are still in support of an exposure standard of 0.02mg/m³. We know this is the standard that will save lives, protect workers and help to stop employers from cutting corners.Our campaign for 0.02mg/m³ is not over.
Every week in SafetyNet we highlight an interesting question we received through Ask Renata.
We have a simple one this week...
Question: Are pink and blue hi vis shirts with reflective tape acceptable to wear on work sites?
The short answer is that no, pink and blue are not ideal. Australian Standard 4602.1:2011 states that the approved colours are yellow, red and orange.
Even the addition of reflective tape doesn't bring it up to standard, as the reflective strips are only effective at night. If you are on work sites at night, however, the tape is necessary.
You can read more about PPE on our website here: http://www.ohsrep.org.au/faqs/ohs-reps-@-work-other-/personal-protective-equipment-ppe
Let me know if you need any further assistance or clarification.
If you have a question for the OHS team (while Renata is away enjoying some well earned time on vacation) head to www.ohsrep.org.au/ask_renata