VIC introduces silica licensing scheme

ACRA has often pushed the narrative to members and the industry about the dangers of silica dust particles.

Victoria will become the first state or territory in Australia to launch a licensing scheme to protect construction workers from exposure to deadly silica dust particles.

Four workers have died from silica-related illnesses so far this year and 59 claims have been accepted by WorkSafe.

Exposure to silica dust particles can lead to deadly lung and respiratory diseases, including silicosis.

Tradies who work with engineered stone, used to make bench tops, are particularly at risk of inhaling the dust.

Under changes to Occupational Health and Safety Regulations announced on Monday, employers working with engineered stone will be required to prove compliance with safety measures and obtain a licence by November 2022.

After that date, manufacturers and suppliers will only supply engineered stone to licence holders and failure to obtain a licence could be used as evidence in proceedings against an employer.

Workplace Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt said the scheme would ensure those working with products that emit silica dust “have the necessary safety protections”.

Employers must also inform job applicants about the health risks associated with exposure to silica and ensure workers are trained about the risks.

Auditing and a compliance checks will be used to enforce the new scheme.

As part of the changes, the state government will make a ban on uncontrolled processing of engineered stone permanent.

An oversight of high-risk crystalline silica work across all industries, including construction and earth resources, will also come into effect from May 2022.

Since January 2021, WorkSafe has made 491 silica-related visits to workplaces and issued 199 compliance notices.

Australian Associated Press, in Northern Beaches Review.

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