Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is a known hazard generated when manipulating products and materials containing silica that 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 RCS in building and construction.
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 fifth meeting in July 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.
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Minimising the risk of respirable crystalline silica in the construction industry is an issue of national importance. The Construction, Plumbing and Services Industry Reference Committee (IRC) has been developing five units of competency to support skills and knowledge advancement to minimise the risks.
Consultation and feeback opportunity
The Round 1 Consultation for the Silica Safety Project has been extended until the 30th September 2021, to ensure we receive the widest range of feedback possible.
Please download and read the draft units of competency available under the downloads section below, then provide feedback through either the Feedback tab or the consultation link. On an issue so important it's essential that we receive as much input as possible, from the widest range of stakeholders, to ensure that all safety concerns are addressed.
Under guidance from the Construction Industry Reference Committee, a working group has developed 5 draft units of competency, ranging from awareness to management. The draft units of competency aim to cover a range of scenarios from the prevention, early identification, control and management of products and materials containing crystalline silica.
The following table summarises the approach taken to date and provides an overview of the intended learner outcomes:
|Unit code||Unit title||Learning outcome|
|CPCSIL1001||Prepare to work safely with products and materials containing crystalline silica||
Demonstrate basic knowledge of silica safety.
This is a knowledge and awareness unit.
At this level, a person undertaking the unit is not working with silica products.
|CPCSIL2001||Use and maintain respiratory protective equipment||
Demonstrate competence using and maintaining respiratory protective equipment.
The unit covers the planning considerations prior to using RPE, fit checking, compliant use requirements and maintenance of RPE.
The unit is suitable for people who will be working with products containing crystalline silica and using RPE.
|CPCSIL3001||Work with products and materials containing crystalline silica||
Demonstrate competence in working safely with products containing crystalline silica.
This unit is suitable for people who will be working with products containing crystalline silica across a range of work environments.
|CPCSIL4001||Supervise work with products and materials containing respirable crystalline silica||
Demonstrate competence supervising work with respirable crystalline silica (RCS).
This unit is suitable for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), supervisors and managers responsible for ensuring the health and safety of employees, contractors and sub-contractors and suppliers when working with products containing crystalline silica.
|CPCSIL5001||Manage risks of respirable crystalline silica||
Demonstrate competence managing risks of respirable crystalline silica.
This unit of competency specifies the outcomes required to manage risks of exposure to RCS by the PCBU. The unit includes planning for compliant use of respirable protective equipment (RPE), PPE and plant, tools and equipment when managing worksites with products containing crystalline silica.
September 2021: Extension of Draft pack 1 consultation until Thursday 30 September – including project webinar
October 2021: Collation/unpacking of feedback, working group and IRC consideration of feedback
November 2021: Validation open for 4 weeks
December 2021: Working Group/IRC response to feedback.
January 2022: QA process
February 2022: STA sign-off
March 14 2022: lodge project with DESE.
PUBLIC CONSULTATION AND FEEDBACKSilica safety consultation
CURRENT PROJECT DOWNLOADSSilica Safety - Units of Competency - Draft 1
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