20 November 2018 / Safety Alert

Silica Dust Awareness

Inhalable dust, respirable dust and Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS / Silica Dust) remains an important risk factor for respiratory disease amongst construction workers. 

The following information has been compiled in order to address some of the queries that arise on the topic of silica dust management.

An Introduction to Silica Dust

FAQs

Question 1 / Why has silica dust become an issue now?

In recent years it has been proven that Respirable Silica Dust (RCS) is a material that, when inhaled, cannot be expelled from the human lung and causes irreparable scarring of lung tissue and permanent loss of lung capacity and resulting in a medical condition referred to as ‘silicosis’.

There is no cure for, and no recovery from, silicosis.
Exposure to RCS also involves the risk of lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
There is no cure for COPD.

Question 2 / What makes silica dust different?

It's a very small size compared to other dust. RCS dust is less than 1 micron (1 um) and is not visible to the naked eye under normal lighting due to its extremely small size. For comparison, the diameter of human hair ranges from 17 – 180 um, and 1 um = 1 millionth of a metre.

Question 3 / Is there a level where it's too dangerous?

The current standard in Australia is 0.1mg / m3 which is equivalent to about half a match head. 

Question 4 / How should silica dust be controlled on site as a whole?

By designing out the activities that produce silica dust and by using alternative methods and materials such as cast in fitments.

Question 5 / What controls will protect construction workers on site?

Where silica dust is present above the standard every employer has an obligation to:

  • ensure that workers have the appropriate equipment, training and RPE (including the associated certification for a fit test for the specific RPE device that is intended to be used) for the activities in question.
  • instigate controls such as collection of the silica dust at the source by using dry or wet vacuum cleaners and vacuum attachments for certain tools,
  • exclude all but those workers who are directly involved in the activity that is generating silica dust, and who are trained and authorised to work in areas where silica dust is present in hazardous volumes.

Question 6 / What vacuum should be used?

There are 2 classes of vacuum that can be used for collection of silica dust at the source - H & M. 

H Class are the superior of the two, however sometimes these units aren't available or not practical for use on site.

M Class have been deemed sufficient, and are suited to site with tool attachments. However, it's important that the right M class vacuum is chosen, with disposable bags so that silica dust can be disposed of safely.

Question 7 / What is fit testing?

A process where a site worker's face mask or respirator is tested to make sure its doing its job. 

Question 8 / Does everyone on site need to be fit tested?

Only the people who are directly exposed to silica dust - such as a site worker who is grinding concrete, and anyone in the immediate vicinity of the activity. 

Question 9 / Will facial hair affect a fit test?

Yes - it's highly likely that having facial hair will affect the seal of a respirator or a face mask. The seal is important so no silica dust enters the lungs. 

Question 10 / Why were monitors used on general site workers?

Those tests were undertaken to understand what the priorities were and what needed to be addressed first. To no surprise, the tests showed grinding of concrete and drilling of concrete overhead exceeded the safe levels of silica dust. 

Question 11 / Who is best to implement the testing?

Anyone or any company that's accredited to deliver those tests are able to be engaged. 

Question 12 / How can I make sure subbies are protecting their workers?

Keep raising awareness via the materials Hutchies has developed so subbies have the opportunity to promote the information to their workforces. 

Question 13 / What does all the terminology mean?

RCSRespirable Crystalline Silica; Silica Dust

OEL

OES

WES

Occupational Exposure Level

Occupational Exposure Standard

Workplace Exposure Standard

These three terms, and the respective acronyms, refer to the maximum contaminant level that a person can be exposed to in an 8 hour period. However where the shift length exceeds 8 hours, or where the working week is longer than 40 hours, the exposure standard may need to be adjusted to compensate for greater exposure and less recovery time.

The WES in Australia is currently 0.1mg/1.0m3, however it is a legal requirement to apply control measures as for the full WES once airborne particulate levels reach 50% of the WES, in this case when readings reach 0.05mg/1.0m3.

In this document we will use WES as the inclusive term for OEL, OES and WES.

RPE

Respiratory Protective Equipment

PAPR

Powered Air Purifying Respirators

‘H’ Class Vacuum


‘H’ Class vacuum cleaners are for use with dust representing a high risk.

The vacuum cleaner filter traps over 99.995 % of dust with a grain size of under 1 micron (it includes carcinogenic dusts and dusts contaminated with carcinogens and/or pathogens). Additionally ‘H’ Class units include a hepa-filter in the exhaust air circuit.

‘M’ Class Vacuum


‘M’ Class vacuum cleaners are for use with dust representing a medium risk.

The vacuum cleaner filter traps over 99.9 % of dust with a grain size of under 2 microns.

1 micron

1 micron (um) = one millionth of a metre.

The diameter of human hair ranges from 17 – 180 um.

COPD

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a long-term disease of the lungs which causes shortness of breath. COPD is an umbrella term for conditions including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma which is irreversible.

There is no cure for COPD.

Question 14 / Where can I find more information?

Within the Toolbox and Document Library

You can also contact our National Health & Safety Manager, Danny O'Reilly on +61 408 920 496 or danny.oreilly@hutchinsonbuilders.com.au for more information. 

Other Recent Activities

View all activities
10 September / Quality

A new secondary area called Facade Replacement Works has been added to the Doc Library under Quality & Defects located here. It contains documents created by the FRW Team to be used on all re-clad projects. The templates can be edited to be made project specific dependent on individual project requirements.

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9 September / Update

Hutchies' full signage catalogue is now available to download in PDF. This has all of our new artwork options, which can be ordered now from our signage supplier Civic Media.

We're in the process of building a new online ordering system for signage to make it easier and to include our whole catalogue. The trial system unfortunately hasn't met our expectations and only contains basic signage for online ordering.  

In the meantime, anything in this PDF catalogue can be ordered directly via our account manager at Civic Media. 

Chelsea O'Neill
Phone +61 7 3821 7326
Mobile +61 478 937 534
Email chelsea.o@civicmedia.com.au

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9 September / Meetings

Monday 9 September 2019

Please participate in Monday’s meetings if possible.

8.00am / Site Managers / Foremen / Leading Hands / Apprentices

Held in Toowong training room and video conference from offices via Surface Hubs and Polycoms.

3.00pm / All Project Managers and Contract Administrators

Regions to join via video conference in each office, individuals out of the various offices to join by the usual teleconference facilities (details can be downloaded below). All Hutchies’ project related people from office or site are encouraged to participate.

5.00pm Dumplings and a beer / Brisbane only

It would be great if all could participate.

Remember to mute your line by entering *6 - to unmute, enter #6

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29 August / Update

On 27 August 2019 Hutchies’ Code Compliant Enterprise Agreement (EA) for Queensland and NT was approved by the Fair Work Commission. It was developed with the CFMEU and it will apply to all Workers and projects in Queensland and NT from Tuesday 3 September, (being 7 days after the approval date).

As discussed at the recent Code compliance training sessions, the changes required to the EA to make it compliant with Building Code 2016 require some adjustments to how Hutchies manages some of the day to day operational aspects of our projects.

We will continue to run training sessions over the coming weeks and months to ensure all Hutchies’ people are aware of our obligations and we will also be completing audits on projects across Queensland and the Northern Territory. In the meantime, please take some time to read and understand the updated Site Management Industrial Relations Handbook and to complete a self audit for your project(s) by 5pm Tuesday 3 September 2019 as detailed below.

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29 August / Update

As discussed during our recent Key Principles introduction session, Hutchies is committed to compliance with the Federal Government’s Building Code.

The Building Code establishes a set of industry standards applicable to workplace relations, health and safety and procurement in the building and construction industry and all builders and subcontractors who undertake Federal Government funded projects must comply.

The current Code is Building Code 2016 and it applies to all projects tendered after 2 December 2016 – this means it applies to all Hutchies’ projects nationally.

As part of Hutchies’ ongoing compliance obligations we have recently modified some of our policies and procedures which have been reflected in updated resources now available on the Document Library.

The updated materials are the subject of a national training programme that is currently being rolled out to all Teams as part of the Key Principles training agenda.

Please take the time to participate when you are invited to one of these sessions. While awaiting state specific training for your Team, please take some time to read and understand the updated Site Management Industrial Relations Handbook and complete a self audit on your project(s) by Friday 6 September 2019.

View More
29 August / Update

As discussed during our recent Key Principles introduction session, Hutchies is committed to compliance with the Federal Government’s Building Code.

The Building Code establishes a set of industry standards applicable to workplace relations, health and safety and procurement in the building and construction industry and all builders and subcontractors who undertake Federal Government funded projects must comply.

The current Code is Building Code 2016 and it applies to all projects tendered after 2 December 2016 – this means it applies to all Hutchies’ projects nationally.

As part of Hutchies’ ongoing compliance obligations we have recently modified some of our policies and procedures which have been reflected in updated resources now available on the Document Library.

The updated materials are the subject of a national training programme that is currently being rolled out to all Teams as part of the Key Principles training agenda.

Please take the time to participate when you are invited to one of these sessions. While awaiting state specific training for your Team, please take some time to read and understand the updated Site Management Industrial Relations Handbook and complete a self audit on your project(s) by Friday 6 September 2019.

View More
29 August / Update

As discussed during our recent Key Principles introduction session, Hutchies is committed to compliance with the Federal Government’s Building Code.

The Building Code establishes a set of industry standards applicable to workplace relations, health and safety and procurement in the building and construction industry and all builders and subcontractors who undertake Federal Government funded projects must comply.

The current Code is Building Code 2016 and it applies to all projects tendered after 2 December 2016 – this means it applies to all Hutchies’ projects nationally.

As part of Hutchies’ ongoing compliance obligations we have recently modified some of our policies and procedures which have been reflected in updated resources now available on the Document Library.

The updated materials are the subject of a national training programme that is currently being rolled out to all Teams as part of the Key Principles training agenda.

Please take the time to participate when you are invited to one of these sessions. While awaiting state specific training for your Team, please take some time to read and understand the updated Site Management Industrial Relations Handbook and complete a self audit on your project(s) by Friday 6 September 2019.

View More
29 August / Update

As discussed during our recent Key Principles introduction session, Hutchies is committed to compliance with the Federal Government’s Building Code.

The Building Code establishes a set of industry standards applicable to workplace relations, health and safety and procurement in the building and construction industry and all builders and subcontractors who undertake Federal Government funded projects must comply.

The current Code is Building Code 2016 and it applies to all projects tendered after 2 December 2016 – this means it applies to all Hutchies’ projects nationally.

As part of Hutchies’ ongoing compliance obligations we have recently modified some of our policies and procedures which have been reflected in updated resources now available on the Document Library.

The updated materials are the subject of a national training programme that is currently being rolled out to all Teams as part of the Key Principles training agenda.

Please take the time to participate when you are invited to one of these sessions. While awaiting state specific training for your Team, please take some time to read and understand the updated Site Management Industrial Relations Handbook and complete a self audit on your project(s) by Friday 6 September 2019.

View More
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30 August / Public Holiday

Friday 30 August 2019

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