New South Wales has brought in new initiatives to protect workers using sandstone and silica products.

Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson said the initiatives cover those working in the manufactured stone, sandstone stonemasonry, as well as the tunnelling and domestic construction industries.

The state has supported SafeWork Australia’s recommendation to reduce the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard from 0.1 to 0.05 mg/m3. It will also undertake further research on whether a reduction to 0.02 mg/m3 is achievable.

Safety rebates available to the manufactured stone fabrication industry have been boosted by the introduction of an industry specific safety rebate of $1000 until June 2020, to assist with improved safety controls.

“There is now no reason for NSW workplaces to not have the necessary safety controls in place,” Mr Anderson said.

“This increased grant will allow those most at risk from coming into contact with silica to have access to the best methods of wet cutting, ventilation, dust collection and respirators.

“With the implementation of the new exposure standard and access to increased rebates, manufactured stone fabricators will be expected to achieve compliance or face tough new penalties that the NSW Government will soon introduce.

“SafeWork NSW have visited every manufactured stone site in NSW, and following another blitz to ensure employers are aware of the updated standards, inspectors will be able to issue on-the-spot fines for non-compliance in addition to shutting worksites down.

“Silicosis is entirely preventable with the correct safety measures in place, which is why the NSW Government supports the reduction of the acceptable exposure standard so that we can better protect people who work with products containing silica.

“The NSW Government developed a comprehensive five-year strategy to address silicosis after identifying it as a major concern more than two years ago. The strategy includes awareness and education, business rebates, conducting research and reviewing regulations.”

Site visits and education initiatives will increase every year until 30 June 2022 to reach the target of 9,000 interactions with NSW businesses working with silica by the end of SafeWork NSW’s five-year Chemicals Strategy in 2022.