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 bodiesand 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 ofJanuary 2020.

As awareness of Silica dust continuestorise, 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 worsescenario; a worker falls ill with Silicosis and takes you to court, potentially forcing business closure and years of ongoinglegalexpenses.

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 enforcedby yourState’s Worksafe organisation.

It’s on you if you don’t know the Silica dust safety requirements that apply to yourState.A recent survey we ran showed that over half of respondents didn’t know what requirements applied to their business.
As thereiscurrently nosingle rulebook that applies to the whole of Australia, you must consultthe Worksafe organisationgoverning your Stateto learn about the requirements.

Here is a list of State-based Silica information websites:

If you’re unsure of any documentation, it’s best toaskyourState’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.

How dust safe are you?How dust safe are you?

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 whensimplyvacuuming up hazardousdusts, 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 cutand extract withM 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.

Download the free Dust Safe working GuideDownload the free Dust Safe working Guide

5) Provide training and instructions for your workers including ‘safe work method statements’ forall 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 torecogniseand understand thedangersof 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 workingtogether tokeep hazardous dust at bay.

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