In early 2023, ISO 23875 with Amendment 1 was put forward for identical adoption by Australian/New Zealand Standards. The Standard went through public consultation/comment and ballot process, with no negative votes. There was an announcement on the August 4th, 2023, that the Standard has been adopted with the designation AS/NZS ISO 23875.
Earlier this year, Safe Work Australia announced their final proposal reducing the silica exposure threshold from 50 ug/m3 to 25 ug/m3 over a three year phase period following a Decision Regulatory Impact Statement. See the previous blog. These events demonstrate Australia's continuous movement toward lowering occupational disease caused by workplace over-exposure to respirable silica.
Furthermore, AS/NZS ISO 23875 has a 25 ug/m3 dust concentration threshold. The lowering of the silica threshold brings alignment between the standard and the regulated exposure levels. All of this is very good news for workers in Australia, particularly those working operator cabs in the vast Australian mining industry.
What's next? The process of aligning industry practice with the standard and threshold levels will take time and education. Already, the Queensland Mine Inspectorate is revising their Recognized Standard 20 with the opportunity to incorporate AS/NZS ISO 23875 into Recognized Standard 20.
The University of Queensland (UQ) Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) is proposing a research project through ACARP looking at the implications of CO2 concentrations of operator fatigue. AS/NZS ISO 23875 is an important part of the solution for addressing operator fatigue. AS/NZS ISO 23875 is being investigated for introduction into the curriculum in the UQ H&S Degree Program.
AS/NZS ISO 23875 has important implications for the way occupational hygiene relates to operator enclosures, and how they are engineered, performance-tested, and maintained. For the Australian mining industry, AS/ISO 23875 provides a tool that allows for more effective and comprehensive mining machine air quality compliant with the new silica threshold. Many of the mining companies are already future-proofing their fleets by implementing AS/NZS ISO 23875
The gloves are off in Australia as the war against respirable silica reaches a feverish pitch. Australia is well on its way to becoming the safest place in the world to operate a mining machine, thanks to the forward-thinking Australian mining industry.