How to control dust on construction sites: Silica compliance
Controlling dust on construction sites and being silica compliant is of extreme importance, now more-so than ever. This article will first examine the surrounding context and then work toward some viable solutions.
24th September 2021
Many in the industry know of the introduction of new and more stringent dust control regulations on construction sites across Australia. Organisations should be well-prepared for this in order to maintain compliance, stay operational (with no costly downtime), and consistently meet their duty of care to their employees and the general public.
There is a focus on silica compliance, which reflects the fact that dust is one of the most prevalent hazards currently facing workers on-site. Therefore, with a potentially strict protocol concerning the silica dust exposure standard on the horizon, the question of how to control dust on construction sites has become more important than ever.
In order to address this issue, this article will first examine the surrounding context and then work toward some viable solutions.
What is Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS)?
SIlica, which is also known chemically as silicon dioxide and commonly as quartz, is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in large quantities in almost all types of rocks and soils. While there are both non-crystalline and crystalline forms of silica, it is the respirable (breathable) types of crystalline silica that pose the greatest risk to on-site workers.
This is because RCS exposure causes the deadly disease Silicosis. It is also a highly transferable hazard. Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is dangerous because:
What tasks in the workplace could cause exposure to respirable silica?
Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) is a common mineral found in most:
Natural stones e.g. granite or sandstone
Fibre cement sheets
The dust which produces RCS is typically produced by high-energy processes. These include sawing/cutting, drilling, grinding, polishing and crushing of the above crystalline silica-containing materials and any other objects containing crystalline silica.
What do we know about the silica dust exposure standard?
The results of a recent NHEWS Survey showed that approximately 39 per cent of Australians are exposed to airborne hazards that can result in lung diseases such as Asthma, Cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). This includes RCS, which is one of the reasons why the silica dust exposure standard has been consistently tightened over the years and is still being assessed.
The current workplace exposure standard & duty-of-care
As the governing body in relation to these matters, SafeWork Australia also outlines the duty of care that is demanded of any workplace owner/operator that creates dust hazards. They refer to this individual/entity as the ‘“person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs)”.
PCBUs must manage the “risks to health and safety when using, handling, generating and storing hazardous chemicals, including silica.” PCBUs also “have a duty to ensure the workplace exposure standard for crystalline silica is not exceeded and to provide health monitoring to workers.”
Forecasting for the future
As you can see, the responsibility for understanding, implementing, and staying up to date on changes to this standard falls squarely on the shoulders of whoever runs or manages a construction/industrial site. This burden is frequently placed on a worksite supervisor or a company decision-maker.
Given that the standard is constantly changing (and will continue to do so), this makes it even more imperative for organisations to be as proactive as possible. The workplace exposure standard for silica dust was halved in 2020. Prior to July 2020, it had sat at an eight hour time-weighted average airborne concentration of 0.1 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3).
Using this example as a forecast, we can infer that the upcoming regulatory change will be even stricter still.
How to maintain compliance with new silica codes of conduct
So, how do you maintain compliance on your construction site by effectively controlling dust (with a focus on silica dust)? RVT Group Australia is here to provide you with the necessary equipment to make this a certainty.
We also provide full training as part of your hire (or contract sale), ensuring that you can set up and implement your hazard control systems safely, securely, and optimally. This, along with our high-tech and highly effective range of solutions, is a significant part of our professional differentiation.
We recommend the Dustex Wanda Filter Plus for applications involving silica dust. This unit is designed to tackle the toughest and dustiest of construction tasks. It can be fitted with a HEPA filter, which makes it suitable for eliminating respirable crystalline silica and other hazardous dust forms.
The key features of this product are as follows:
Highly configurable, mobile and powerful
Up to 5,800m3 /hr airflow (when used with the Ventex CF 300M)
Effective with long duct runs
Up to HEPA filtration
Capture dust at source and create negative pressures
In conclusion, It goes without saying that those in the industry should stay as informed and prepared for regulatory changes as possible. To avoid potential compliance issues, you should ideally implement effective dust control mechanisms as soon as possible. Failure to address these issues may result in financial loss, embarrassment, and other types of hardship.
At RVT Group Australia, we assist you in avoiding all of this while also helping to improve your business processes. Phone us on 1300 086 248 to discuss your requirements. Ask about our FREE site assessment or FREE 3-day trial while you're on the call.