Silica Dust

What is Silica & Silica Dust?

Silica is everywhere. It’s part of bricks, concrete and mortar. It’s in tiles and the slates on our roofs. It’s found naturally in stone and rocks. Even some fillers and plastic composite products use silica. Left alone, silica is safe. But if you work on materials that are made up of silica, you’ll be releasing dangerous silica dust. Activities such as concrete drilling, cutting, grinding, fettling, mixing, handling, dry shoveling and tunneling can all result in exposure.

The industries with the highest risk of exposure include construction, quarrying, mining, concrete manufacturing, brick & tile manufacturing, foundries, abrasive blasting, roading and monumental masonry work.

Silica dust is the very fine dust that’s created when you cut, drill, grind, chip or sand materials and products like stone, bricks, concrete, tiles or mortar.

Why is Silica Dust Dangerous?

Silica dust can be harmful if you breathe it in. Silica dust particles are much smaller than normal dust (sometimes invisible to the naked eye) – and they can get deep into your lungs and stay there, permanently damaging the lung tissue and eventually leading to serious lung diseases in some people. Silica dust can cause silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease.

Eliminate the Exposure

Consider changing the product or process, for example use alternative products (eg metallic shot, slag products or grit for abrasive blasting, instead of sand).

Getting materials cut to size off-site in a facility where dust exposure can be controlled more easily.

Minimise the Exposure

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Heat in the Workplace

We are into the last month of what is officially summer, however the hot weather is still going strong and it is important to remain vigilant around the risks when working in heat.

The safe working temperature is not based on air temperature alone. Factors to consider in regards to heat also include humidity, radiant heat (the heat emitted from an object or surface), physical activity and clothing.

Minimising the risk of harm for extreme temperatures can include isolation and engineering controls including:

  • Ventilation and air conditioning
  • Shielding
  • Process modification
  • Heat reduction

If you are working outdoors it is always important to cover up, apply a high SPF sunblock, and to stay hydrated. 

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Workplace Exposure Standards

WorkSafe NZ released the updated Workplace Exposure Standards (WES) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEI) – Edition 10 November 2018 – late last year. These new standards are available for download here

After consultation and review earlier last year there have been changes to 15 Work Exposure Standards and 17 biological exposure indices and these are highlighted in the preface.

An in depth explanation of what these are and their importance is available on the WorkSafe website here.

For any enquiries about biological exposure monitoring of your employees or environmental monitoring of your workplace please contact our team on enquiries@triex.co.nz or phone 0800 487 439.

Occupational Health and Occupational Hygiene – What’s the difference?

Many workplaces monitor the health of their employees by completing a variety of health tests, including lung function and hearing. Others monitor the environment of their workplace, including the atmosphere and noise levels. They all should be doing both. Here’s why.

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Control airborne particulates in your workplace

Every year, an estimated 600-900 people die in New Zealand from work-related health issues and a further 5,000-6,000 are hospitalised with cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other chronic illnesses from workplace exposure to airborne contaminants.

Dust and other airborne particulates are a difficult hazard to manage, as the particles that cause the most damage are very difficult to detect visually. Normally the only time you’ll see them is during the late afternoon as the sun shines through a crack or window and creates a haze or shaft of light. WorkSafe NZ have launched the Clean Air programme, which is their first targeted intervention on work-related health. To reduce the risk of exposure to airborne contaminants, businesses can do the following.

Eliminate Airborne Contaminants from the workplace

PCBUs must eliminate the risk if it’s reasonably practicable. For example, isocyanate paints can be eliminated from the workplace by replacing them with water-based paints.

Minimise risks

If elimination isn’t reasonably practicable, minimise worker exposure to these products. Examples for silica dust are to fit extraction systems or use water suppression systems.

Issue Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

If a risk to health still remains, supply RPE to workers. Make sure they know why they need to wear it, how to use it and that it fits properly.

RPE should not be the sole method of reducing risk. It must be used alongside other minimisation controls.

Fit test RPE

Fit testing is very important. RPE works if it forms a seal around the wearer’s nose and mouth. Fit testing is conducted by trained specialists. Your safety gear supplier can help you locate one.

Monitor workers’ exposure to airborne contaminants

Monitor workers’ exposure to airborne contaminants to check the levels of dust, vapour or fumes being created. Always consider if those levels can be further reduced. Exposure monitoring can help you find out if workers are being exposed to a hazard at harmful levels or detect whether the controls you have in place for that hazard are adequate.

Monitor workers’ lung health annually. This also helps you know whether the controls are working, and may detect early symptoms of work-related ill-health.

Provide workers with information and training

Make sure workers know about the health risks and controls for airborne contaminants. ‘Toolbox talks’ can be useful here.

Make sure workers understand the risks, what they need to do to protect themselves, and why it’s important to take part in exposure and health monitoring.

To learn how our qualified Occupational Hygiene Team can help you reduce the risk of respiratory ill-health in your workplace, call us on 0800 487 439 or email enquiries@triex.co.nz 

Negligent asbestos removal puts others at risk

A small business in Timaru has been fined $10,000 for failing to follow correct asbestos removal procedures. This error of judgement stems from a failure to test the building for asbestos prior to demolition.

This case highlights the importance of having an asbestos survey undertaken by a competent person and implementing an asbestos management plan. WorkSafe are reminding businesses and property owners that a negligent approach to removing asbestos not only puts you at risk but also those around you.

This message comes after Topham Holding Limited was recently sentenced in the Timaru District Court.

During the demolition of an old chicken shed in 2016, Topham Holding’s sole Director removed sheeting which contained asbestos, without first engaging a competent person to ensure the asbestos was removed. The director had ignored advice from WorkSafe a year earlier that the building was likely to contain asbestos and needed to be surveyed, and proceeded to carry out the demolition regardless.

Cheif Inspector of Investigations Keith Steward said: “Topham Holding was aware of the presence of asbestos and was negligent in ignoring the well-known risks of asbestos and our advice about the demolition.”

“No one is exempt from managing the risk of asbestos appropriately. Asbestos management is not a job for a layperson – it is a job for a competent and trained professional. It’s not just about keeping you safe and healthy – but those are you as well”.

Topman Holding Limited was sentenced under the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016, as the company was a PCBU with management or control of a workplace or of a structure and yet failed to ensure as far as reasonably practicable that the asbestos was removed before demolition – a requirement under these regulations.

TriEx can assist you in ensuring you’re meeting your obligations under the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016. Call us on 0800 4 TriEx (0800 487 439) or email enquiries@triex.co.nz.

TriEx Asbestos Accreditation

TriEx – An internationally accredited asbestos service provider

When businesses select a supplier to fulfil their asbestos inspection needs, they need to be assured and confident that the Inspection Body can supply a technically competent, effective service with consistently reliable results. Assurance of this can be achieved with accreditation and TriEx have successfully gained IANZ accreditation to ISO 17020 for Surveying and Sampling for Asbestos. This allows TriEx, as an asbestos inspection body, to benchmark its work practices against the world’s best practices. This internationally recognized standard evaluates the technical competence of TriEx performing inspection activities and for the impartiality and consistency of our inspection activities.

Our dedication and focus on quality and technical accuracy is the foreground of everything we do, We are dedicated to delivering practical cost effective work place solutions and impartial advice. With your asbestos management in our hands you can focus on your core business interests, confident in the knowledge that you are compliant with your legal obligations and providing a safe built environment for your employee’s and clientele.

Our Asbestos team is lead by our asbestos manager and is supported by our team of experienced surveyors. The team are highly trained and all hold the BOHS IP402 – Surveying and Sampling for Asbestos Qualification, ensuring the results and recommendations in our technical reports are of the highest quality and integrity.

Our wide scope of accreditation now covers the following:

  • Surveying for Identification of potential Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs)
  • Management Surveys (Domestic, Commercial, Industrial)
  • Refurbishment and Demolition Surveys (Domestic, Commercial, Industrial)
  • Bulk Sampling for Verification of Asbestos
  • Evaluation of survey results (including the provision of advice about the management of risks and priority assessment)
  • Re-inspection of identified or suspected asbestos containing materials in surveyed premises

If you would like to learn more about our Asbestos services please contact us on enquiries@triex.co.nz or call us on 0800 4 TRIEX (0800 487 439).

Are you ready for April 4 2018?

What is an Asbestos Management plan?

The asbestos management plan identifies the risks posed by the asbestos present in your property and sets out procedures to control them. It is a regulatory requirement under regulation 13 of the ‘Health & Safety at Work (asbestos) Regulations 2016’, that utilizes the data accumulated from asbestos surveys to manage asbestos risk.

An asbestos management plan will typically include:

  • Policies and procedures for emergencies, refurbishments, day-to-day operations and for less usual work or tasks
  • Key asbestos information‚ usually from an asbestos survey
  • Risk assessments of each occurrence of asbestos
  • Action plan
  • Monitoring & re-inspection regimes
  • Training requirements
  • Roles & responsibilities
  • Dissemination of information
  • Duties of the Asbestos Coordinator

The arrangements within the plan should be reviewed periodically. If you are unsure of where your company stands regarding compliance, you can opt for a desktop study that will clearly identify any gaps, if they exist, and offer a step-by-step guide to compliance.

With a comprehensive understanding of your needs, we will produce a tailored asbestos management plan and implement your own policies that will help you to manage the asbestos within your premises compliantly, proportionately to the risk and in accordance with current regulations.

In addition, we offer an implementation meeting to aid the initial setup of the processes involved in the management of asbestos materials. We also offer reviews of your management plan on a six-monthly basis to ensure your on-going compliance with legislation.

To find out how TriEx can help you meet your obligations email us at enquiries@triex.co.nz, or phone 0800 487 439

Monitoring Noise Exposure

Are you monitoring the noise exposures in you workplace?

WorkSafe NZ is actively encouraging employers to undertake workplace monitoring to assess the environment that their employees are working in. Such assessments may include noise, dust, chemical exposure, lighting levels or exposure to moulds and fungi.

If you have already taken steps to monitor the hearing of your employees by carrying out annual hearing tests, that is great news – however this is only part of the process.

Noise exposure monitoring is required under the Health and Safety at Work Act, General Risk and Workplace Management (GRWM) regulations. It is a requirement that a workplace noise assessment or survey is completed every 5 years or if any new equipment has been installed or if any equipment has been withdrawn from use.

Constant exposure to noise from tools and machinery can put your workers at risk of permanent hearing damage. Loud machinery and work tools can cause harm to your workers’ hearing. As well as impact noises such as those from sudden loud noises, heavy loads being dropped, or heavy hammering.

If you find you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when standing around a metre apart, for at least part of the day, then noise levels on the site could be damaging hearing. If at the end of the day you notice that your hearing is muffled or your ears are ringing then noise levels could also be too high.

The best way to prevent hearing loss is to reduce your and your employees exposure to excessive noise. This can be done by quietening the source of the noise, stopping noise from reaching people, reducing the time people are exposed (i.e. eliminate, substitute or isolate) and by wearing the correct type of personal hearing protection.

The noise monitoring required under the GRWM regulations must be carried out by or under the supervision of a competent person who has sufficient knowledge, skills and experience in the appropriate techniques and procedures including the interpretation of the results. The TriEx Occupational Hygiene team can assist you with all of this.

Our Occupational Hygienists are well experienced and are trained in conducting, interpreting and providing recommendations following workplace noise assessments.

Workplace noise assessments include the identification of noise sources, the assessment of employee noise exposures, advice on administrative and PPE controls and recommendations for engineering and longer term controls. Advice is also provided as to what level of hearing protection is required and the type of hearing protection device best suits the working environment.

To ensure your hearing and the hearing of your employees is not being effected by a noise created in the work environment contact the TriEx Occupational Hygiene team on 0800 487 439 or email occhygiene@triex.co.nz today to discuss how we can help.

Winter Lighting

We have just had the shortest day of the year! While that is a sign that we are slowly on our way to warmer weather, it also means that due to the tilt of the earth, the sun is closer to the horizon.

The result of this is more glare and light intrusion into work spaces, which can cause discomfort, inaccuracy and loss of productivity. Adjusting the amount of intruding light and glare in your workplace can have a significant impact on your workers wellbeing and safety – especially in hazardous work environments.

Like temperature and humidity, everyone has a wide range of comfort levels, so everyone’s lighting needs will be different. When offices feature open plan work areas it is often more about reaching a short term compromise rather than redesigning the building.

Our occupational hygienists are able to provide you with an assessment of the lighting (luminance) in your workplace and provide practical options to help you manage your lighting needs.

To learn more about our Occupational Hygiene services email the Occupational Hygiene team, or phone 0800 487 439