RCS - Respirable Crystalline Sillica (information provided by Moldex)

What is RCS?:

Respirable Crystalline Silica is a product of, among many tasks, cutting, sawing, griding, drilling, polishing, crushing, or even dry sweeping products that contain crystalline silica (quartz) such as concrete, mortar, brick, and other cement-based materials to name a few. RCS particles are not always visible under normal lighting, can stay airborne for long periods, and can easily be inhaled, potentially causing irreparable or even fatal harm to human health.

RCS Exposure Risks:

Exposure to RCS can lead to silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability or death. RCS can also contribute to lung cancer, renal cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Individual susceptibility varies so steps to eliminate or minimize exposure to RCS even below the exposure standards established by Safe Work Australia should be taken including engineering and administrative controls and the proper selection, fitting and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Understanding Respiratory Protection Standards (information provided by Moldex)

AS/NZS 1715 Selection, Use, and Maintenance of Respiratory Protective Equipment sets out principals of respiratory protection, requirements and recommendations for the selection, use, and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) in the workplace. To comply with AS/NZS 1715:2009 you require a respiratory program in place covering the following:
  1. Appointing a program administrator
  2. Selection of RPE
  3. Medical screening of end users
  4. Training
  5. Issue of RPE
  6. Fitting of RPE
  7. Testing of RPE
  8. Wearing of RPE
  9. Maintenance of RPE
  10. Record keeping
  11. Program evaluation

1: Appointing a program administrator - SE:(2.2)

It is mandatory to appoint a program administrator. The administrator is responsible for completing the requirements stipulated in the guidelines. 

2: Selection of RPE - S2:(2.3)

RPE needs to be worn whenever the person is exposed to excessive levels of contaminant. Factors for selection include:

  • Contaminant
  • Task
  • Operator
  • Equipment limitations
  • Special response to HAZMAT incidents

When selecting RPE it is important to ensure that only RPE complying to AS/NZS 1716:2012 is used.

3: Medical screening of end users - S2:(2.3) 

All RPE users should have an initial medical assessment prior to use, including: Physiological considerations: Effort is required to breathe through some respirators, so people of cardiac or respiratory disorders should be assessed. Other factors to consider include heavy work, prolonged use, and physical features such as facial hair (that could break the seal on a mask). Psychological considerations: Enclosed RPE like hoods, helmets or full face masks may give rise to feelings of claustrophobia, isolation and anxiety in some people.

4: Medical screening of end users - S2:(2.4) 

Training needs to be provided by a competent person, and should include:

  • Identification of the hazard/s
  • Reasons for the RPE
  • RPE selection
  • Use and proper fitting of RPE
  • Wear time
  • Limitations of RPE
  • Maintenance and storage
  • Summary of the respiratory protection programme in the workplace

5: Issue of RPE - S2:(2.5) 

Where practicable, RPE should be issued for a wearers exclusive use. Records documenting the issue, provision of consumables and maintenance need to be established. Filters need to be marked with the date of issue and users ID. Non-personal RPE must be cleaned prior to reuse

6 & 7: Fitting and testing of equipment - S2:(2.6 & 8.5) 

All RPE that requires a close fitting facepiece has to be properly fitted and sized to the wearer. Users require an annual fit test in accordance with the standards. There are two types of facial fit test: 

  • Qualitative: is subjective, as may be influenced by the wearer
  • Quantitative: is not subjective, suited to all mask types, and requires a trained operator. Full face respirators have to be tested with this method to obtain the full protection factor

8: Wearing of RPE - S2:(2.7) 

The respiratory programme is there to ensure that RPE is worn correctly, fits correctly and is used when and where required.

9: Maintenance of RPE - S4:(2.8) 

Maintenance of RPE needs to be carried out to the manufacturer’s instructions and should include: 

  • Cleaning and disinfection 
  • Inspection checking equipment is in working order 
  • Repair and replacement of components (including filters) 
  • Correct storage 
  • Disposal of worn/expired masks and components

10: Record keeping - S4:(2.9) 

Records for a respiratory programme should include details of:

  • Issue of RPE: Date, identifying mark 
  • User records: Training, fit test, medical screening 
  • Filter replacement schedule
  • RPE maintenance schedule 
  • Programme records: Procedures, audits and evaluations, atmospheric monitoring records, health surveillance

11: Program evaluation

The respiratory protection program needs to be audited at least annually with adjustments made as appropriate to reflect the evaluation results


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