Silica dust is a known hazard which can lead to lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. It is estimated that 230 people a year will develop lung cancer due to past exposure. This risk is predominantly born by construction workers, alongside miners, farmers, and engineers. Recent years have seen a notable rise in silica-related illness and death, particularly evident in Queensland and linked to an increase of engineered stone. It is estimated that in 2011, approximately 587,000 Australians were exposed to silica dust whilst working, and that 5758 will eventually develop lung cancer. Workers in engineered stone benchtop manufacturing, finishing and installation are at particular risk, as this comparatively new material contains up to 95% crystalline silica, as distinct from natural stone’s crystalline silica composition of 5%-50%. The focus of the Silica Safety project is to develop appropriate occupational standards to meet the particular risks posed by silica dust in building and construction.
Case for Endorsement
In October 2020, the Construction, Plumbing and Services Industry Reference Committee (IRC) requested further industry insights into the skilling and training needs relating to silica safety in the construction industry.
In February 2021, the IRC met and considered a Training Needs Analysis Report, which outlines the imperative to develop competencies that address silica in the workplace.
The IRC then agreed to proceed with the Silica Safety Project and endorsed the establishment of a Working Group to advise on the creation of new units of competency to address workplace and safety skilling gaps on silica.
A working group has been formed, and will have their fourth meeting in June to continue development of competencies on subjects such as hazard reduction, controls and supervision.
It is expected that the project will be considered for implementation by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) in December 2021.*
*Due date is yet to be confirmed.
CURRENT PROJECT DOWNLOADSBrief - Silica Safety Training Needs Analysis
Project Scope Management Plan (PSMP) - Silica