Background of the new Workplace Exposure Standard for Respirable Dust

On the 18 February 2019, Safe Work Australia (SWA) released two recommended workplace exposure standard (WES) values for Respirable Crystalline Silica, and Respirable Coal Dust, which will impact our clients who regularly deal with these forms of dust. The documents within the links above provide further detail regarding the current recommendations and basis for WES, discussions and conclusions, and some primary and secondary sources to support the current findings.

The WES review project is in its early days of release and further reviews are scheduled to be released for comment periodically. There will be over 700 recommended workplace exposure standards being released as part of Safe Work Australia’s project.

New Workplace Exposure Standard Recommendations for Silica and Crystalline (Respirable Dust)

SWA recommends for the new WES for Silica and Crystalline to be at 0.02 mg/m3, lowered from 0.1 mg/m3. The change in standard is based on the review methodology. This new Standard was proposed to prevent lung cancer, fibrosis, and silicosis as multiple sources identify adverse effects in the lungs at 0.05 mg/m3 when exposed to Crystalline Silica.

New Workplace Exposure Standard Recommendations for Coal Dust (Containing < 5% Quartz)

For Coal Dust (Containing < 5 % Quartz), SWA recommends for the new WES to be at 0.9 mg/m3 for Bituminous and Lignite Coal, and 0.4 mg/m3 for Anthracite Coal. This new standard was proposed to prevent Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis (CWP), Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as numerous data source may suggest adverse health effects for individuals who are exposed in the above mentioned respirable dust form. It is also based on the same SWA review methodology.

Opportunity for Technical Feedback

Safe Work Australia is currently seeking public comments on the draft recommendations and reports for these workplace exposure standards. If you would like to provide feedback, you can do so through this link, prior to 30 April 2019.

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