Australia, like many countries, is grappling with the health implications of lung diseases associated with exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and the need for appropriate action, including effective workplace monitoring, for the protection of workers.
Legislated Workplace Exposure Standards (WES) are fundamental to these efforts. Under the current Australian model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations, the WES establishes a statutory maximum upper limit of exposure to workers for hazardous chemicals such as RCS.
It is important to note that the WES for RCS is measured as an 8-hour TWA. This means that the WES is based on exposure that occurs in an 8-hour working day, 5-day working week. In circumstances where a longer working day (or working week) occurs, the WES is adjusted to compensate for the greater exposure during the longer work shift and the decreased recovery time between shifts (Safe Work Australia, 2013).
It is understood that further lowering of the legislated limit is under active consideration by policymakers. However, for regulation of this nature to be effective, it is essential that reliable measurement at the levels specified is actually possible.
With this in mind, AIOH and NATA have agreed to collaborate in driving awareness of the issues and to facilitate efforts towards outcomes that are both effective and aligned with the public interest.
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