The Air Quality Working Group (AQWG) was established at the Silica in Tunnelling workshop held at ATS2017. Its stakeholders include SafeWork NSW, project delivery directors, construction managers, and health and safety leaders from the highest levels of management from both clients and contractors across all active tunnel construction projects in NSW. To date, four meetings have been held with active participation from all stakeholders.

Exposure to silica dusts remains the highest health risk facing our membership during the construction of tunnelling projects, along with those who build the tunnels that our members design. Chaired by Kate Cole, the AQWG meet bi-monthly and have been proactive at working together with regulatory efforts to improve health outcomes for tunnel workers. Specific activities the group have fostered include:

  • sharing lessons learned on dust control in efforts to improve processes across all projects and inform future regulatory guidance;
  • developing our industries first awareness package on silica dust which is in the process of being delivered across all major projects as part of a pilot program, and;
  • through collaboration with icare (dust diseases board) the AQWG have developed draft guidance aimed to address some of the challenges in health monitoring for crystalline silica.

The success of the AQWG to date can largely be attributed to the ATS in providing a collaborative platform which harnesses the vast experience of our membership and the contribution of such to support key stakeholders in our ever-growing sector. This initiative is a key example of the value of organisations such as ATS in enabling effective strategies to be developed that will ultimately be practical and a positive step forward.

Such value was highlighted at the World Tunnelling Congress 2018 (WTC2018) in Dubai, where Kate Cole spoke of the work being done in Australia to target this important issue. The response was largely positive from the global community, resulting in Kate being asked by Working Group 5 to help improve the current guidance published by the ITA on health and safety in tunnelling.  Kate passes on her sincere thanks to the ATS executive for being able to showcase the collective efforts and experience of the Australian tunnelling community as a shining example of how the ATS is leading in this area.

Daniel Beavon from SafeWork NSW and his team are active members of the ATS AQWG. For more on this video, visit