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Air Monitoring and Testing for Crystalline Silica in Workplaces

Crystalline Silica: why it's important to manage exposure in the workplace

Exposure to Crystalline Silica has been a topic of increasing interest over recent years as it has presented itself as a significant risk in the wake of inadequate control measures and elevated silica dust levels among people working in stonemasonry, construction and the mining industries. When workers cut, crush, drill, polish, saw or grind products that contain silica, dust particles are formed. Depending on factors, such as how much dust a worker breathes in and for how long, crystalline silica can lead to serious and fatal lung disease such as silicosis.



Silica testing and air monitoring

Under the Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU) must identify hazards, assess risks and implement practical controls to protect workers’ health and safety. This includes monitoring the health and safety of workers if they carry out ongoing work using, handling, generating or storing crystalline silica, and there is a significant risk to the worker’s health because of exposure.


Air monitoring and testing can determine the airborne concentration of respirable crystalline silica, which can reduce hazardous exposures and prevent illness in your workplace.   



Make informed decisions with an accredited laboratory


Our Perth laboratory, MPL Laboratories is a national leader in airborne CONTAM monitoring and analysis. MPL Laboratories are NATA Accredited for Respirable Dust (AS 2985) and have been for Crystalline Silica by re-deposition and FTIR (NIOSH 7603) for over 20 years!


In 2021, MPL Laboratories further extended its scope of NATA accreditation to include the analysis of Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) on filters using the X-ray diffraction (XRD) technique.


MPL is now NATA Accredited for Respirable Crystalline Silica on Filters by XRD



A comparison of respirable crystalline silica concentration measurements

Evaluation and control of respirable crystalline silica exposures are critical components of an effective occupational hygiene program. The two techniques, FTIR (after re-deposition) and XRD offer advantages and disadvantages, depending on the nature of the samples collected. Each suffers from interferences of different types and if these cannot be overcome using one method, the best option is to revert to the other.


By having access to both methods of analysis in-house, we are able to not only provide XRD for those clients operating in mineralogy with known FTIR interferences (e.g. Feldspars, Amorphous Silica), but also provide XRD as a follow-up when such interferences are observed using the FTIR technique.

Image: graph features α-Quartz and Cristobalite peaks by XRD


Above, α-Quartz and Cristobalite peaks by XRD  


Image: XRD at our Perth lab, MPL Laboratories


XRD at our Perth lab, MPL Laboratories



MPL Laboratories Reporting Limits

Analyte Based on Method Ref Reporting Limit (mg/filter)# Reporting Limit (mg/m³ )​
(assume 1080L
sample volume)
Safe Work Australia and
Worksafe NZ
(Direct on Filter)
ISO 16258-1; 25mm filter:    
α-Quartz MDHS 101-2; 0.005 mg/filter 0.005 mg/m³ 0.05 mg/m³
Cristobalite NIOSH 7500
(Direct on Filter)
0.01 mg/filter 0.01 mg/m³ 0.05 mg/m³
α-Quartz NIOSH 7603 0.005 mg/filter 0.005 mg/m³  0.05 mg/m³ 
Cristobalite In-house 0.02 mg/filter 0.02 mg/m³ 0.05 mg/m³

# Based on filters not being overloaded or suffering with matrix interferences.



Experienced and dedicated to your laboratory testing needs 

MPL Laboratories and our network of Envirolab Services laboratories and support offices across Australia offer sample testing services, which will provide you with accurate reporting for more informed decisions concerning compliance and your obligations in keeping your workers safe, healthy and productive.  


Our service also incorporates the extensive experience and expertise of our individual team members in meeting the requirements of your project:



Fast Turnaround

With many years' experience in processing large quantities of dust samples for both private and public sector clients, MPL Laboratories has streamlined the analytical process – even with ashing and re-deposition required for the FTIR analysis. These same principles have been applied to the XRD analysis of the filters and a turnaround of 5 working days is available on either technique.


Please note, some forms of silica analysis have special testing requirements, such as Amorphous Silica (e.g. Fumed Silica, Silica Fume) and thermally generated Tridymite. If you are specifically interested in these forms, make sure to contact the team prior to submitting samples.



Quality Service

Our wide scope of NATA Accreditation for an extensive range of sample matrices means that our accredited laboratory testing services follow nationally compliant and independently audited methods.


We're constantly expanding our scope and all our facilities meet all the requirements of ISO 17025, the main ISO standard used by third-party laboratories to demonstrate competency in operations and the ability to generate quality results. This demonstrates the technical competence and confidence you need when partnering with a laboratory that provides quality results for more informed decision-making. A full list of MPL Laboratories' NATA accredited services is available in the NATA website directory.   











Find out more about our capabilities in work health


Your employees are the most important part of your business. That's why it's important that your workplace environment is healthy and safe for all your staff. 

Our specialisation in OHS and hygiene monitoring encompasses a wide scope of areas that Envirolab has the expertise and know-how in providing you with quality results:


Testing for Crystalline Silica in Workplaces - Ask Envirolab



Additional information and resources

Requirements for employers vary between the Australian states and territories. However, in 2019, the Australian Governement established a National Dust Disease Taskforce to develop a national approach for the prevention, early identification, control and management of occupational dust diseases, including silicosis in Australia.


From 1 July 2020, the workplace exposure standard (WES) for silica was halved from an eight-hour time-weighted average of 0.1 mg/m3 to 0.05 mg/m3 under the Work Health and Safety Regulations. The new standard was agreed upon by work health and safety ministers following a review of safe exposure levels by Safe Work Australia.


Safe Work Australia’s national guide for Working with Silica and Silica Containing Products also provides information about controlling the risks of exposure to silica dust when working with silica and products containing silica, including composite (engineered or manufactured) stone used to fabricate kitchen and bathroom benchtops, bricks, asphalt and cement.  


Speak an expert team member at Envirolab

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