Silica dust is generated when materials containing silica are cut, sanded, polished, drilled or blasted. When this dust is inhaled into the lungs it can cause silicosis, a disease which leads to scarring, swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs, interfering with a person’s ability to breathe.
Who is at risk?
Silica is found in many materials common on construction sites, including soil, concrete, masonry, rock, granite and landscaping materials. If you cut, sand, drill, blast or polish materials which contain silica, or you work near others performing these tasks, you may be exposed to silica dust.
Controlling the risks
It is important to minimise your exposure to silica dust.
A comprehensive list of ways to reduce exposure to silica dust is available on the SafeWork SA website. If you have any questions about this contact SafeWork SA on 1300 365 255.
What to do if you are a worker
If you work in an environment where you are exposed to silica dust, speak to your employer about how you can reduce your exposure. If you are concerned you have been exposed to silica dust, speak to your employer and consult your doctor and ask for an assessment at a Thoracic Clinic. Early detection and control of further exposure to silicosis is important and is likely to lead to better outcomes.
Support during silicosis health screenings
We understand that being tested for silicosis may make you worried or anxious about what this means for you and your family. Below is a list of support services that are available for specific industry sectors and the wider community. Your workplace may also have an existing Employee Assistance Program where you can access free and confidential support at this time.
Industry specific supports
- Construction and allied industries: MATES in Construction is an available support if you are concerned about silica exposure. You can call MATES on 1300 642 111 for a confidential conversation and they can help connect you with other support and services if required.
- Mining and quarrying industry: Contact the Mining and Quarrying Occupational Health and Safety Committee (MAQOHSC) on 08 8204 9842.
Other free support services include:
- Regional Access for SA rural areas – call 1300 032 186
- Beyond Blue – call 1300 224 636
- MensLine Australia – call 1300 789 978
- Lifeline Australia – call 13 11 14 for 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services
What to do if you are an employer
You have a responsibility to manage your workers’ risk of exposure to silica dust. SafeWork SA can provide information on how you can ensure your workers are protected and what you need to do for ongoing health monitoring.
Useful links for employers:
- SafeWork NSW: Working safely with crystalline silica (video)
- Safe Work Australia: Personal protective equipment for airborne contaminants (video)
- SafeWork SA: Managing respirable crystalline silica exposures
- Safe Work Australia: Crystalline silica health monitoring
- RACP Accelerated Silicosis: Frequently asked questions
- HIA: Working with silica
- Safe Work Australia: Translated guide for working with silica
Useful links for workers:
- ABC’s 7.30 program: Deadly Dust
- Lung Foundation Australia: Silica fact sheet
- Cancer Council: Silica dust
Useful links for General Practitioners:
- Silicosis support for GPs
- Accelerated silicosis: What you need to know
- Health monitoring guide for crystalline silica
This guide provides information for those registered medical practitioners engaged by employers to carry out or supervise health monitoring for workers in relation to crystalline silica.