Crystalline silica is used to make a variety of products, including engineered stone for kitchen and bathroom benchtops, bricks and tiles. It can also be found in sand, stone, concrete and mortar.

When workers cut, crush, drill, polish, saw or grind stone or products that contain crystalline silica, dust particles are generated. These dust particles, known as respirable crystalline silica or silica dust, are small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and cause illness or disease including silicosis.

Workers are exposed to silica dust whenever it is airborne and they can breathe it in.

Safe Work Australia recently announced that the workplace exposure standard (WES) for respirable crystalline silica/silica dust has been reduced to 0.05 mg/m3.

Unlike the strict regulations and procedures currently in place for the safe removal of asbestos, there is no advice on a suitable method of silica dust disposal. This activity is likely to be one of the highest exposure points to silica dust, and NECA is advocating for end-toend policy on how best to work with and dispose of it. Current studies suggest silica is unlike asbestos where a single fibre can cause mesothelioma. Silicosis requires consistent and sustained exposure to silica dust.

Here are six things you can do to help protect your workers from exposure to silica dust:


  1. Assess the risk of silica dust at your workplace.

  3. Review the control measures you have in place to minimise your workers’ exposure to silica dust.

  5. Arrange for air monitoring if you are unsure how high the silica dust levels are at your workplace.

  7. Talk to your workers and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) about the reduced WES, how it might impact your workplace, and any new training your workers might need.

  9. Review your workers’ health monitoring program if there is silica dust at your workplace. This should be conducted for all workers who generate silica dust or those working near it.

  11. Wherever possible, have all engineered or natural stone products manufactured and/or cut in a controlled environment (not at sites), where extraction equipment is installed for the purpose of reducing exposure.