Proposed Crystalline Silica Regulations 2021

By on April 23, 2021

DR ELIZABETH GIBSON, General Manager of the CMPA provides CMPA comments on the proposed Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2021.

Reforms to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulations are being considered by WorkSafe in order to adequately protect the health and safety of those employed within industries which have a high risk of exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

https://engage.vic.gov.au/proposed-silica-regulations-2021

This has been bought about by the increased use of engineered stone in the benchtop industry with a corresponding rise in Workcover claims for silicosis.

CMPA submission

CMPA is very much aware of respirable crystalline silica dust (RCS) and the potential adverse impact on employees’ health and has been instrumental in raising this issue and subsequently compliance among Members through:

  • CMPA pre employment health assessment proforma;
  • CMPA periodic health assessment proforma;
  • Silica specific periodic health monitoring;
  • CMPA exit employment health assessment proforma;
  • CMPA instructions for medical practitioners;
CHART 2.3: Total silicosis and related claims by ANZSIC industry classification, 1985-2020
  • Holding dust workshops 2016;
  • Development of the CMPA Dust Management Guideline March 2016;
  • Delivering dust training;
  • Workshop on Dust Thursday 23 May 2019 at Quality Hotel, 265 Mickleham Road, Tullamarine; including presenters from EPA VIC, WorkSafe, Monash University (Occupational Physician) etc. with a view to modernising the current CMPA Guideline;
  • Webinar CMPA Dust Management and Medical Assessment Guidelines Thursday 22 October 2020. Guidelines were reviewed by WorkSafe, Occupational Hygienist and Occupational Physician and the webinar subsequently made available online;
  • The CMPA Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust Management Guideline 2021 to be released February 2021 (it will be amended for any subsequent changes due to the proposed Crystalline Silica Regulations amendments).

https://cmpavic.asn.au or call 03 5781 0655

CMPA comments on Chart 2.3 Regulatory Impact Statement

• The total silicosis and related claims by ANZSIC industry classification, 1985-2020 gives the number as 11 claims for the mineral mining and quarrying industry. This works out to be approximately 0.3 claims per annum.

Summary of Submission

Proposed Crystalline Silica Regulations: CMPA comments

  • 319 D (a): A trigger point of greater than half the exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica being considered high risk is too high. An eight-hour time-weighted average exposure standard is the average airborne concentration of a particular substance permitted over an eight-hour working day and a 5-day working week.
  • 319 D (b): “a risk to health of a persons at the workplace” is too broad a definition for high risk work and is unquantifiable.
  • 319 F and G: Will the manufacture of a crystalline silica substance also include asphalt production, cold mix production, RAP processing/use of other recycled products that may contain crystalline silica products?
  • 319 H: Does this mean that the revised silica statement needs to be provided to all previous customers? If this is the case, this will be a very high administrative burden and difficult to track.
  • 319 P (3): The meaning of this clause is unclear.
  • 319 U: There is no guidance on the frequency of testing and how different areas of the quarry pit will be addressed, for example, a site with silica contained within the overburden. Note analysis should be conducted at a NATA accredited laboratory for crystalline silica and not just a “competent person”.
  • 319 W “Information for job applicants” This clause needs to be clarified further. Is this just for successful candidates or is it for all job applicants? As it currently reads, it is for all job applicants which poses a high administrative burden. There may be 100 applicants for one role. This seems to be a disproportionate requirement.

Regulatory Impact Statement: CMPA comments

A one page, plain English statement needs to be developed for basalt which contains < 1% crystalline silica.

The RIS needs to be amended as it is erroneous in a number of its calculations which grossly underestimate the cost impacts of the Crystalline Silica Regulations. This could have been avoided if CMPA was consulted during the preparation of this RIS. The figures used by CMPA were 860 work authorities and approximately 3000 people directly employed in the extractive industry based on data from Home – Earth Resources and demonstrates that the RIS has underestimated costs to the industry by 500% as shown in the table below.

Small business and competition impacts needs to be amended to include small quarries of which there are approximately 430.

  • Clarification is sought as to the action level for crystalline silica: 0.02 mg/m3 or 0.025 mg/m3.
  • NATA accredited laboratories for crystalline silica have varying results due to the thresholds being very difficult to measure. As the exposure standard drops, the margin for error lends itself to the possibility of results exceeding the standard when that may not actually be the case.
  • The proposed required documents will take time to research and complete properly for questionable improvement in the overall safety of employees. It mirrors the model of the Mines Regulations in NSW which requires these management plans that will not be read and have little or no safety improvement outcome. The hazard is already known and the ways to reduce the risk to employees without writing plans to come to the same endpoint purely for the sake of compliance with the Crystalline Silica Regulations.
  • These proposed Crystalline Silica Regulations are an impulsive reaction by WorkSafe in their failure to regulate the engineered stone benchtop industry. The quarry industry has been successfully managing silica exposure over many years, which is proven by the extremely low claims in the industry of 1 every 3.3 years. This is more remarkable because many employees in the industry have worked in quarries for many years.

Conclusion

The preferred option is licencing plus the full package of reforms for stonemasons only due to evidence of control of respirable crystalline silica dust in the quarry industry through a low number of claims and overwhelming evidence of failure of control in the engineered stone benchtop industry.

The CMPA would welcome discussions with WorkSafe concerning the CMPA’s respirable crystalline silica dust resources being made available more widely.

Note: The full CMPA submission is available at:

https://cmpavic.asn.au/publications/submission/.

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