As concerned as I am about silicosis across the wider extractives sector, I do not support WorkSafe’s efforts to lower the New Zealand worker exposure standard of respirable crystalline silica to 0.05mg/m3 from the current 0.1mg/m3.
While WorkSafe has considered selected research from around the world, there is as much research concluding if silica exposures are maintained at or below 0.1 mg/m3, the risk of developing silicosis or other fibrotic lung pathologies should be negligible or non-existent.
The European Union, for instance, is sticking with 0.1mg/m³.
Imposing 0.05mg/m3 would add significant cost to the extractives sector and this is not warranted given the uncertainty about the improvement in health and safety that such a change would make. Currently you can’t measure RCS accurately below 0.05mg/m3. The ‘reasonably practicable’ test within the HSAW Act could mean sites may not be required to complete such ‘improvements’.
MinEx does not believe, given the weight of evidence, that the current exposure limit of 0.1mg/m3 needs to change. We believe that time would be better spent focusing on localised and industry compliance with the current level instead of lowering the level for all.