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

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5 March / Public Holiday

Tuesday 5 March 2019 (TAS only)

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19 March / Weather Alert

Severe Tropical Cyclone Trevor continues to move west-southwest towards the eastern Cape York Peninsula coast. It is expected to cross the coast just south of Lockhart River late this afternoon or early evening. The cyclone will most likely cross as a high end category 3 system, but further intensification to category 4 cannot be ruled out.

The cyclone will weaken as it crosses the northern Peninsula tonight and Wednesday, but is expected to remain a category 1 cyclone until it enters the Gulf of Carpentaria later on Wednesday. It is expected to reintensify rapidly once it enters the Gulf of Carpentaria and track towards the Northern Territory.

Consider all site housekeeping and remove loose waste and material from roofs, scaffold, balconies and open areas (hardstands / laydown) and ensure site fences are well supported with the minimum bracing (every second panel for scrim & every panel for hoarded).

General advice in storms

  • Move cars under cover or away from trees. 
  • Secure loose outdoor items. 
  • Seek shelter, preferably indoors and never under trees. 
  • Avoid using the telephone during a thunderstorm.
  • Beware of fallen trees and powerlines. 
  • For emergency assistance contact the SES on 132 500.

People between Orford Ness and Cape Melville and adjacent inland areas (including Lockhart River and Coen), should complete preparations quickly and be prepared to shelter in a safe place.

People in western Cape York Peninsula between Mapoon and Pormpuraaw (including Weipa and Aurukun) should immediately commence or continue preparations, especially securing boats and property, using available daylight hours.

Hazards

The VERY DESTRUCTIVE CORE of the cyclone, with extreme gusts up to 220 km/h, will make landfall near Lockhart River later this afternoon.

DESTRUCTIVE WINDS, with gusts in excess of 125 km/h are expected between Cape Grenville and Coen. These DESTRUCTIVE WINDS will move some way inland with the cyclone tonight.

GALES, with gusts in excess of 90 km/h, are expected in coastal areas between Orford Ness and Cape Melville today and tonight. These GALES are expected to extend inland over the Peninsula overnight and on Wednesday as the cyclone moves inland to include areas between Mapoon and Pormppuraaw during Wednesday. Gales are possible later Wednesday further north between Cape York and Mapoon if the cyclone takes a more northerly track than forecast.

As the cyclone crosses the coast, a STORM TIDE is expected between Lockhart River and Cape Melville, including Princess Charlotte Bay. During Wednesday, a STORM TIDE is also expected between Cape Keerweer and Mapoon on the western Peninsula Coast. LARGE WAVES may produce minor flooding along the foreshore. People living in these areas are likely to be affected by flooding and should take measures to protect their property as much as possible and be prepared to help their neighbours.

ABNORMALLY HIGH TIDES are also expected around the Wednesday morning high tide for the far northeast Queensland coast, north of Port Douglas.

HEAVY RAINFALL, which may lead to flash flooding, is forecast across far north Queensland today and continuing over the next few days. A Flood Warning is current for the Daintree and Mossman rivers as well as a broader Flood Watch for catchments north of Innisfail to Kowanyama.

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18 March / Weather Alert

Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce damaging winds, heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding and large hailstones in the warning area over the next several hours. Locations which may be affected include Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Dalby, Ipswich, Kingaroy, Coolangatta, Caboolture, Cleveland, Gatton and Jimboomba.

Consider all site housekeeping and remove loose waste and material from roofs, scaffold, balconies and open areas (hardstands / laydown) and ensure site fences are well supported with the minimum bracing (every second panel for scrim & every panel for hoarded).

Summary of weather

Storms are likely across Australia in several regions and cities. Please monitor the live radar below for a national summary.

General advice in storms

  • Move cars under cover or away from trees. 
  • Secure loose outdoor items. 
  • Seek shelter, preferably indoors and never under trees. 
  • Avoid using the telephone during a thunderstorm.
  • Beware of fallen trees and powerlines. 
  • For emergency assistance contact the SES on 132 500.
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15 March / Weather Alert

Severe thunderstorms are expected to become more extensive this afternoon and evening. Currently, the primary risks are damaging wind gusts and large hail, however this will transition to heavy rain later this afternoon and evening, particularly across the far southeast.

Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce damaging winds, heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding and large hailstones in the warning area over the next several hours. Locations which may be affected include Warwick, Toowoomba, Dalby, Roma, Kingaroy, Ipswich, Gatton, Jimboomba, Laidley, Lowood, Nanango and Tara.

Consider all site housekeeping and remove loose waste and material from roofs, scaffold, balconies and open areas (hardstands / laydown) and ensure site fences are well supported with the minimum bracing (every second panel for scrim & every panel for hoarded).

Summary of weather

Storms are likely across Australia in several regions and cities. Please monitor the live radar below for a national summary.

General advice in storms

  • Move cars under cover or away from trees. 
  • Secure loose outdoor items. 
  • Seek shelter, preferably indoors and never under trees. 
  • Avoid using the telephone during a thunderstorm.
  • Beware of fallen trees and powerlines. 
  • For emergency assistance contact the SES on 132 500.
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12 March / Quality

Recently, some CodeMark Certifications for a number of widely-used ACP cladding products were withdrawn following an audit by JAS-ANZ. 

For further information on the withdrawal and why it came about, as well as the specific products affected, please see the links to the press releases at the end of this alert.  

How does this affect Hutchies?

Authorities/clients/consultants have already expressed confusion over the validity of the CodeMark Certificates on both past and current projects. 

In some cases, fire brigades have been resistant to CodeMark Certificates, so Hutchies has already been insisting on including ACP usage in a project Fire Engineering Report (FER) for some time.

The withdrawal of these CodeMark Certifications essentially makes it mandatory to do this now.

What do I need to do from here?

Please ensure your façade submissions to the Quality Team includes the FER without reference to the Codemark Certificates. 

Façade submissions to the Quality Team are mandatory for ALL projects, without exception.

Please ensure a fire engineer reviews and produces the FER for the use of ACP products. 

This needs to be backed by the Building Surveyor/Certifier and approved by the fire brigade as necessary. Performance solutions on life safety includes external walls and is a legislated requirement as noted in the Quality Handbook Topic 21.

What about existing projects which were covered by the withdrawn CodeMark Certifications?

CertMark International has advised that any projects completed prior to the withdrawal of the current certificates are still covered by the withdrawn certificate. More information on this is contained in the CertMark press release.

However, despite this, some authorities appear to be resisting acceptance of the CodeMark Certificate on projects commenced prior to the withdrawal that do not have final certification/occupancy certificates in place.

Please clarify with your consultants on any current projects to be certain there are no issues down the track at completion. It may be necessary to have the fire engineer amend the FER to avoid reliance on any CodeMark Certificate.

Don’t delay. 

Ensure this check is completed immediately and ensure the determination is provided unconditionally by the Building Surveyor/Certifier. Unconditionally means not subject to other conditions such as fire brigade acceptance. 

We need to be certain this will not delay completion on any current projects!

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11 - 14 March / Safety Alert

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued warnings for low to locally severe intensity heatwave conditions over southern QLD and northeastern NSW.

Please ensure you stay hydrated, wear appropriate protection (clothing, hats, sunscreen etc) and look out for your mates. 

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5 March / Update

Over the last two years, Hutchies has been subject to over 130 site visits, inspections and audits by ABCC inspectors. In each instance, we are confident that Hutchies’ Site Management Teams have demonstrated Hutchies’ compliance with the Building Code applying to each project.

Whilst evidence of compliance is encouraging, there is no sign that the volume of inspections and the focus on Hutchies’ projects is reducing. It is therefore essential that Hutchies’ teams remain vigilant in the area of Building Code compliance and that you contact Ben Young on 0400 577 953 if there is any aspect of the Code that requires clarification. Two particularly useful resources to refresh your understanding of the Code are Hutchies’ Site Management Industrial Relations Guides and the Building Code Self Audit.

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4 March / Update

Hutchies has updated its company policies in line with the expiration of our existing suite. These policies contain important standards that Hutchies has in place for our business – please take the time to refresh yourself on them.

Please also update any existing policies you may have:

  • Framed in offices and sites (at a minimum all offices and sites should have Work Health & Safety, Environmental & Quality)
  • In project Specific Management Plans, Manuals and / or Procedures 

We have sourced affordable standard clear frames if you would like to update yours. You can purchase them here.

The new policies can be downloaded below. They are also available on Hutchies' website (public) and the Doc Library.

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8 March / Observation

International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world?
Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.
Get everything you need to run a successful International Women's Day right here.

#BalanceforBetter

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