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Australia bans engineered stone

13 Dec 23 Australia has become the first country in the world to ban the use of engineered stone to protect workers from silica dust.

The prohibition on engineered stone, a popular material for bathrooms and kitchens worktops, has been agreed by ministers. Safe Work Australia has been tasked with its implementation on a state by state basis.

The ban follows a campaign by the Construction, Forestry & Maritime Employees Union and others. (See videos below.)

Safe Work Australia recommended the prohibition under the model Work Health & Safety (WHS) laws to protect thousands of workers from respirable crystalline silica (silica dust), which is generated in high levels when workers cut, shape or polish engineered stone.

Exposure to silica dust from engineered stone has led to a rapid increase in the number of workers developing the serious lung disease silicosis in Australia.

Safe Work Australia will now draft amendments to the model WHS regulations. The amendments will then be implemented in each Australian state’s WHS laws. Safe Work Australia will also develop a national framework to ensure anyone working with engineered stone products installed prior to the prohibition is doing so safely.

Until the prohibition comes into effect, workers and businesses can continue to work with engineered stone in a controlled way.

Safe Work Australia chief executive Marie Boland said: “Today, WHS ministers from the Commonwealth, states and territories agreed to Safe Work Australia’s recommendation to prohibit the use of all engineered stone to protect the health and safety of workers.

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“Workplace exposure to respirable crystalline silica has led to an unacceptable increase in the number of cases of silicosis and other silica-related diseases. Expert analysis shows that silica dust from engineered stone poses unique hazards and there is no evidence that low silica engineered stone is safe to work with.

“This prohibition will make Australian workplaces safer and healthier.

“The vast majority of silicosis cases identified in recent years are in engineered stone workers. Many of these cases are in younger workers who are experiencing faster disease progression and higher mortality.

"The cost to industry, while real and relevant, cannot outweigh the significant costs to workers, their families and the broader Australian community that result from exposure to respirable crystalline silica from engineered stone.

“Continued work with engineered stone poses an unacceptable risk to workers, which is why we recommended a prohibition on the use of all engineered stone.

“Now that a prohibition has been agreed by WHS ministers, Safe Work Australia will progress amendments to the model WHS Regulations and develop guidance to support PCBUs and workers understand and prepare for the change.”

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