Austrian Inspection campaign: Silica Dust on Construction Sites and in the Mining Industry

Due to the amendment of the Carcinogens Directive (EU) 2017/2398 and the SLIC Guidance for national labour inspectors on addressing risks from worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) on construction sites, the Austrian Labor Inspection carries out an advisory and inspection campaign focusing on silica dust throughout Austria in the years 2020 to 2022. The inspection campaign aims at low-dust (dust-free) working methods on construction sites and in surface and underground mining and, in particular, at reducing or avoiding silica dust.

In Section B of NACE Rev. 2 (Mining and quarrying) the figures of Austrian Workers’ Compensation Board give a clear picture. More than 30 % of all fatal occupational disease cases of the occupational disease caused by silica dusts recognized in all economic sectors are attributable to mining. In view of these figures, it is a priority to counteract the trend in the mining industry.

Training and information

In fall 2020, despite the Corona pandemic, labor inspectors throughout Austria were trained via videoconferencing on the new legal requirements and informed about the proper implementation by employers in practice. At the same time, the social partners were also informed and advised about the new legal regulation and the solutions for implementation in companies as well as on construction sites.

Implementation of the inspection campaign 2021

In March 2021, the labor inspectors were requested via a decree to carry out the inspection campaign on silica dust 2020 – 2022.

The objectives are:

  • to raise awareness among those responsible in construction companies of hazards associated with work processes that release silica dust,
  • implementing technical protective measures to reduce dust and communicating the benefits of low-dust (dust-free) working methods,
  • the networking of silica dust solutions in work preparation between employers, builders and coordinators in accordance with the Directive on Construction Sites 92/57/EEC, and
  • the prevention of occupational diseases due to silica dust with the help of technical measures for dust prevention,
  • good company practices are to be collected and recorded.

The target group of the campaign “Silica Dust” are approx. 2000 small and medium-sized enterprises of the construction sector, where an exposure to silica dust is to be expected, and approx. 250 enterprises of the mining sector. Mining companies in Austria mostly are small or micro enterprises.

The inspection campaign is planned in two phases: Phase I in 2021 focusing primarily on consulting and awareness-raising. In this context, all parties involved in construction activities (coordinators according to the Directive on Construction Sites 92/57/EEC, employers, employees), are to be advised. The inspection campaign in mining focuses on workplaces and off-site workplaces that are subject to the Mining Regulation. In Phase I these workplaces are advised by the labor inspectors.

In order to monitor the effect of the inspection campaign, establishments that were advised in 2021 have to be inspected in Phase II of the inspection campaign in 2022.  The Federal Ministry of Labour, Central Labour Inspectorate, evaluates the outcomes and results of the inspection campaign on a regular basis. Good company practices are to be collected and recorded in this phase.

Support material

To support labour inspectorates and employers, tools and guidlines were made available and reference was made to the “Guidance for National Labor Inspectors on Mitigating Risks Associated with Construction Worker Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica at Construction Sites” published by the Senior Labor Inspectors Committee (SLIC) in 2016. At the same time, articles and information on the inspection campaign were scattered in various journals.

Current and planned

The Federal Ministry of Labor intends to further develop and improve the risk assessmant tool for construction which also refers to good practices e.g. from Germany. The motto is “A lot of visible dust, a lot of alveolar dust! Little visible dust, little alveolar dust!”. Solutions for dust minimization and dust prevention in the mining sector will be accompanied by comparative limit value measurements  to further improve implementation.

Experiences of the Austrian Labour Inspection based on the SLIC guidelines will be reported back to SLIC, good practices collected in companies will be placed on the EU Roadmap Website and be passed on via the EU Roadmap as examples for other companies in Europe. It is intended to end the Austrian campaign with an EU-wide conference in mid-2022.

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