Inspectors from SafeWork NSW have confirmed they are beginning the new year with more frequent site visits to discuss the risks associated with silica dust in the workplace.
SafeWork NSW Executive Director of Compliance and Dispute Resolution Tony Williams said SafeWork inspectors would speak to contractors, site supervisors and PCBUs to cover off their responsibilities in managing the risk of silica dust exposure, in addition to psychosocial hazards at work.
“When cutting or grinding these items, workers can breathe in fine silica dust, which can be deadly. In NSW in 2020-21, there were 57 cases of silicosis diagnosed and seven deaths,” Mr Williams said.
“In addition, mental health is a real and often overlooked problem in the building and construction industry, with construction workers being six times more likely to die from suicide than from an incident at work.
“With COVID-19 risks front-of-mind, it is a good time for employers to think about their responsibilities to ensure both a physically and mentally safe work environment.
“When working with products that generate silica dust, employers must have safe systems of work in place and workers be provided with the right safety equipment such as wet cutting or on-tool dust capture tools. The days of workers being exposed to silica dust on construction sites must be a thing of the past.
“In terms of mental health, employers need to identify and control the psychosocial hazards that could lead to mental ill-health, such as bullying and aggression, unmanageable workloads and a lack of job clarity.”
New South Wales is leading the country in new trials of technology that will better be able to detect unsafe levels of respirable crystalline silica, which began in November 2021.