What are Synthetic Mineral Fibres?
Modern technology and the banning of asbestos have lead to the introduction of synthetic mineral fibres (SMF). Synthetic mineral fibres, also known as ‘man-made mineral fibres’ (MMMF or SVF), is a general term used for amorphous vitreous fibres such as glass fibres as used in insulation, rock wool, slag wool and refractory ceramic fibres (RCF), as well as new low bio-persistent styles. These products, still manufactured within Australia, are extensively used in manufacturing, buildings and residential properties for thermal and acoustic insulation.
The health effects of SMF are not well known and studies are being undertaken to determine any short- or long-term health impacts. However it is known that health effects such as upper respiratory tract irritation, skin and eye irritation may arise from the disturbance of SMF products during installation, refurbishment, or demolition.
The National Standard for Synthetic Mineral Fibres [NOHSC:1004(1990)] does specify a time-weighted average (TWA) exposure standard of 0.5 f/mL should be applied to all forms of SMF, and is therefore treated as a hazardous material.
Under the National Code of Practice Fore the Safe Use of Synthetic Mineral Fibres [NOHSC:2006(1990)] an employer is to ensure during all applications involving mineral wool, glass wool and ceramic fibres, and activities involving their installation, removal, and any related handling or work, seek to:
- Section 5.7 – Minimise the release of fibres and/or dust
- Section 5.10 – Employers shall ensure they obtain information as to the likely exposure levels that employees may experience with each given task. Where monitoring is undertaken to determine exposure levels, such monitoring shall be in accordance with the SMF membrane filter method.
- In the instance in which reasonable doubt exists as to the levels of exposure, Section 6.10 (d) states that air sampling shall be undertaken by adequately trained personnel in accordance with the SMF membrane filter method.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required in managing the risk of exposure to airborne fibres. Employers must ensure employees have correct PPE supplied and are instructed in the appropriate use including fitting a respirator. Please visit our Respirator Fit Testing page for more information on testing the fit of a respirator for your application.
Synthetic Mineral Fibres Testing
The sampling of SMF is to be done in accordance with AS 3640. This approach is very similar to asbestos airborne fibre monitoring and uses the same monitoring equipment and laboratory ‘fibre counting’ testing method.
For more information on Airborne Fibre Monitoring and services offered by Environmental Site Services please visit the link.