By Leigh Johnston
SafeWork NSW will travel around the state with its Silica Roadshow, educating workers and regional centres about the dangers of working with products containing silica.
The Silica Roadshow will start in Orange on 6 August, before visiting Liverpool, in south-western Sydney, Ballina, Newcastle, Tamworth and Queanbeyan between August and October. SafeWork NSW has a full list of events found on its Events page on its website.
The roadshow is designed to educate workers and businesses who work with manufactured stone and sandstone, as well as those in the domestic construction, mining and tunnelling industries about the dangers of silica.
Silica-containing products can generate particles of dust that, when inhaled, can cause serious diseases such as silicosis, lung cancer, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (commonly known as emphysema). Silica dust particles are usually expelled after cutting, grinding or drilling certain rocks and stones
SafeWork NSW Executive Director Andrew Gavrielatos is motivated to get the message out there about silica-containing products given the severity of the health problems it causes.
“The Cancer Council is predicting one in 100 workers with past exposure to silica without correct safety measures will develop [lung cancer],” Gavrielatos said.
“This disease is preventable with the correct safety measures in place. This includes having adequate ventilation systems, installing dust capture systems on portable tools, wetting down the stone, providing personal protective equipment such as masks and respirators, and not using compressed air to remove or clean up settled dust.”
Gavrielatos is confident that the Silica Roadshow will be the first step to NSW businesses being silica-aware.
“Speakers at the roadshow will cover topics on dust control measures, services available for health screening and air monitoring, as well as industry-specific case studies on achieving best practice,” Gavrielatos said.
“Businesses should also conduct regular air monitoring to confirm that crystalline silica dust is not exceeding the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard and provide health monitoring to workers.”
These events have been planned in the wake of growing silicosis awareness. Earlier this year a 36-year-old Queensland stonemason died from silicosis after contracting the disease in 2017.
In early July, the Queensland Government introduced a dust-related disease register in order to provide better workplace health and safety. Before the stonemason died, an audit of the Sunshine State’s manufacturing stone industry found silicosis to be in epidemic proportions, on the level or worse of the asbestos epidemic.