Assessing the risks
A risk assessment involves considering what could happen if someone is exposed to a hazard—in this case RCF or HBF—and the likelihood of it happening. Factors to consider when assessing the risks include:
Is the RCF or HBF in a location accessible to workers? Does it contain binders? Is it encapsulated or in a bound state? Is it aged and friable due to long periods at high temperature or is it physically damaged?
How much RCF or HBF is there? How much dust is likely to be produced?
How long will the job take?
Who could potentially be exposed to dust, for example workers, passers-by or subcontractors?
What is the work area like?
Is it difficult to move around or poorly ventilated?
Could the dust travel out of the area?
What action should be taken to control the risk?
Should the material be removed?
How urgently is the action to be taken?
When will work be carried out?
Are existing control measures effective?
Is dust minimised by existing controls?
Are procedures adequate to control exposure to dust below the exposure standard?
Regardless of the exposure standard, exposures must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.
Many hazards and their associated risks are well known and have well established and accepted control measures. In these situations the second step to formally assess the risk is unnecessary. If after identifying a hazard you already know the risk and how to control it effectively, you may simply implement the controls, for example those recommended in section 2.3.
WORKPLACE EXPOSURE STANDARD AND AIR MONITORING Worker exposure to RCF and HBF must not exceed both the 8 hour time-weighted average (TWA) value of 0.5 respirable fibres/mL and the 8 hour TWA inhalable dust workplace exposure standard of 2 mg/m3. The risk of exposure must also be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. 2. MANAGING REFRACTORY CERAMIC FIBRES AND HIGH BIOPERSISTENCE FIBRES HEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS 6 GUIDE TO HANDLING REFRACTORY CERAMIC FIBRES Air monitoring must be carried out to determine the airborne concentration of a substance if:
you are not certain on reasonable grounds whether or not the airborne concentration of the substance or mixture at the workplace exceeds the relevant exposure standard, or
monitoring is necessary to determine whether there is a risk to health.
When monitoring airborne contaminants is used to estimate a person’s exposure it must be
done in the breathing zone of the person.
Analysis of air monitoring samples taken in the workplace should be carried out by a
National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory. A list of accredited
laboratories is available from the NATA web site at www.nata.asn.au.
Once levels of respirable fibres and inhalable dust levels are determined for a given work
area or process, further monitoring may only be needed to check control measures are
effective provided the work practices remain the same.
Further guidance on exposure standards is in Safe Work Australia’s Workplace Exposure
Standards for Airborne Contaminants.