$400,000 fine for exposing workers to silica dust

June 25, 2024

(Australia) A mining company has been convicted and fined a total of $400,000 for failing to protect workers from exposure to crystalline silica dust.

Sibelco Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Wonthaggi Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to two charges of failing to provide or maintain plant or systems of work that were safe and without risks to health.

The company was convicted and fined $200,000 for each charge and ordered to pay $20,799 in costs.

The court heard that Sibelco operated a Nyora sand quarry and mill that produced silica-based products, including silica flour, sand, and gravel.

Workers were required to manually operate a machine, which was different for each material, to fill and palletise 25-kilogramme bags of product for transportation to customers.

During the process of bagging silica flour, workers described plumes of silica dust escaping from the bags at head height and, on occasion, faulty bags bursting and leaving the machine operator covered in material.

A number of workers were placed at risk by this process between 2012 and 2020, including two who have since been diagnosed with silicosis.

The court heard it was reasonably practicable for Sibelco to reduce the risk of exposure to crystalline silica dust by having automated bagging and palletising systems in place, including an automated and enclosed bagging machine and the use of a robotic palletiser.

This is valid as of the 24th June 2024.

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