Respirable Dust and Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) Occupational Exposure Level (OEL) Review | Resources Safety & Health Queensland Skip to content

Respirable Dust and Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) Occupational Exposure Level (OEL) Review

An occupational exposure limit (OEL) is an airborne concentration of a particular substance or mixture that must not be exceeded. When comparing concentrations measured during a sampling period to the OEL, it is important to note that these limits do not represent an acceptable exposure level for workers, instead they are simply the maximum upper limit imposed by Legislation.

Mine dust lung diseases (MDLD), such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and silicosis, are caused by exposure to respirable dust over time. Mine workers exposed to respirable coal dust (RCD) and respirable crystalline silica (RCS) at levels that exceed accepted OEL are potentially at risk of developing occupational lung diseases.

In 2018, Safe Work Australia (SWA) developed their methodology and announced that the current list of OELs were being reviewed. In 2019, work health and safety Ministers agreed on the revised OELs for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and respirable coal dust (RCD). These new OELs reflect the most relevant scientific data or comparable exposure standards from international jurisdictions and were arrived at through the nationally agreed methodology. Both the agreed methodology and the revised levels have been the subject of extensive consultation and feedback processes conducted by SWA. The Queensland Government has committed to adopting the updated, scientifically determined OELs as published by SWA into Queensland mining safety and health regulation.

From 1 September 2020, the OEL for:

  • Respirable Coal Dust is 1.5 mg/m3
  • Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) is 0.05 mg/m3.

These OEL changes come into effect through amendment of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017, and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2017.

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Last updated: 01 Sep 2020