The potentially deadly consequence of inhaling silica dust is in the spotlight with WorkCover Tasmania Board and WorkSafe Tasmania launching a Silica Dust Awareness Campaign to coincide with Asbestos Awareness Month.
The initiative aims to reduce silica dust related deaths by raising awareness of the dangers, providing important reference and informational materials for tradespeople in the workplace and home renovators.
A key focus of the campaign is a television commercial warning Tasmanians that inhaling even a tiny amount of silica dust can cause deadly silicosis.
“In Tasmania there have been nine claims for workers compensation for silicosis caused by work since 1990. Five of these have been lodged since October 2018 by workers engaged in manufacturing engineered stone benchtops,” WorkCover Tasmania Board Member, Dr Robert Walters, said.
“Nationally, a highly publicised spike in the number of silicosis diagnoses in workers in the stone industry since 2018 has resulted in targeted interventions to improve understanding of the risks and control measures required under Work Health and Safety laws.
“The average cost per dust related injury claim is also expected to rise with the number of silicosis cases received recently.
“Crystalline silica (silica) is found in sand, stone, concrete and mortar. It is also used to make a variety of products including composite stone used to fabricate kitchen and bathroom benchtops, bricks, tiles and some plastics.
“When products that contain silica are cut, crushed, drilled, polished, sawed or ground, dust particles are generated that are small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and cause illness or disease including silicosis.
“Silica is most dangerous to health when dust is generated, becomes airborne and is then inhaled.
Dr Walters said the hidden danger of silica dust could easily be overlooked by those working in uncontrolled environments, such as when undertaking DIY projects or home renovations.
“While WorkSafe Tasmania regulates silica dust risk management in the workplace, the recent spike in claims raised concerns that those in relevant trades and home renovators are not fully aware of the health risks of silica dust,” Dr Walters said.
The campaign will run until January 2020. A dedicated WorkSafe silica dust webpage can be found at www.worksafe.tas.gov.au/silicasafe.