5 things tradies must do to avoid heavy fines when working with hazardous dust
Disclaimer: This information is not endorsed by Work Health and Safety governing bodies and shouldn't be interpreted as any form of legal or health advice. All regulatory and compliance enquiries must go to the relevant Worksafe organisation responsible for each region of Australia. All health-based enquiries should be discussed with and handled by a Medical Professional. Information provided in this article is accurate as of January 2020.
As awareness of Silica dust continues to rise, businesses working with hazardous materials must act faster to control health risks and ensure all employees are safe. The issue is so critical that hefty fines are being dished out to businesses that fail to introduce a higher and compliant standard of dust control.
Yes, no one likes a fine but consider the other, far worse scenario; a worker falls ill with Silicosis and takes you to court, potentially forcing business closure and years of ongoing legal expenses.
The best solution, of course, is to avoid both scenarios by understanding the statutory requirements and ensuring your business has correct and compliant safety practices in place.
So, here are five things tradies must do to avoid heavy fines when working with hazardous dust.
1) Know the requirements enforced by your State’s Worksafe organisation.
It’s on you if you don’t know the Silica dust safety requirements that apply to your State. A recent survey we ran showed that over half of respondents didn’t know what requirements applied to their business.
As there is currently no single rulebook that applies to the whole of Australia, you must consult the Worksafe organisation governing your State to learn about the requirements.
Here is a list of State-based Silica information:
Western Australia – Visit website
Queensland – Visit website
New South Wales – Visit website
Victoria & Tasmania – Visit website
Australian Capital Territory – Visit website
Northern Territory – Visit website
South Australia – Visit website
If you’re unsure of any documentation, it’s best to ask your State’s Worksafe organisation directly.
2) Use a dust extractor for all your cutting and grinding.
With a lot of cutting and grinding still happening without dust extraction, simply hooking up to an extractor is good move. Before getting into the different building materials and risk levels, reducing any sort of dust in your work environment is good for peoples’ health and helps you work quicker.
3) Make sure you’re using the right dust extractor for the material.
Let’s say you’re using an L Class dust extractor while cutting concrete that contains Silica, a work place inspection will result in a fine. It’s crucial that you understand the risks of the building materials you work with and can match them to the right class of dust extractor.
Our complete 'Working With Hazardous Dust' brochure gives you all the answers.
Important: Even when simply vacuuming up hazardous dusts, you must use a suitably-rated dust extractor. You can get fined for vacuuming up Silica dust with an L Class extractor even if you normally cut and extract with M Class.
4) Put processes in place to safely dispose of the dust captured by extraction units.
There’s a lot of focus on catching dust, but less on how to safely dispose of it. The simple act of changing a bag can expose you to dangerous dust if not handled correctly.
Here are four quick tips for dust disposal:
- Wear PPE when opening a dust extractor to change bags or filters
- Use bags that can be easily locked off and sealed when removing
- Bag your old filters to avoid dust exposure
- Use tear-resistant bags for safe transportation off-site
If you can show there are safe processes in place for dust disposal, you’ll reduce your chances of copping fines.
5) Provide training and instructions for your workers including ‘safe work method statements’ for all tasks involving Silica dust.
Enforcing safety standards in any workplace is essential, and it’s no different for hazardous dust. Hold training sessions with all your workers so everyone understands the risks, appreciates why dust safety is important, knows the right equipment to use and follows the correct, compliant processes. If just one worker fails to do so, it can put their health at risk and compromise your entire business.
That’s it! By doing these five things you’ll be in a better position to avoid fines and can be confident that you’re protecting your workers, yourself and your business.
If you’d like more information on dust safety workplace requirements, remember your best point of call is your State’s Workplace organisation.
It’s up to you!
By reading articles like this and taking the time to recognise and understand the dangers of Silica dust, you’ll be able to keep yourself and your team safe. Each and every worker is accountable when it comes to dust safety, so you must take the risks seriously and encourage others to do so as well. It’s all about working together to keep hazardous dust at bay.
More free resources for you