Bunnings pulls one of its most popular products from sale

Bunnings will no longer sell engineered stone, which is linked to a deadly disease.

Bunnings will no longer sell engineered stone, which is linked to a deadly disease. Photo: Getty

One of the country’s biggest retailers has bowed to pressure over a popular product linked to a fatal disease.

Bunnings will stop selling engineered stone from the end of this year, after a campaign by construction workers.

“This is the end of the line for engineered stone,” CFMEU National Secretary Zach Smith said on Tuesday.

“When even a massive corporation that until now has put profits over workers’ lives concedes it’s lost any remaining social licence to sell this killer stone, no government can squib it on a ban.”

The construction union has spearheaded the campaign to have the stone, which is popular for kitchen and bathroom benchtops, removed from sale.

It is linked to the the incurable and deadly disease silicosis. An estimated 600,000 workers have been exposed to silica dust generated through mining, construction, building and manufacturing.

Last month, Safe Work Australia recommended to state, territory and federal health ministers a complete nationwide ban, after releasing a report into the health risks of engineered stone.

The ACTU had also pledged to ensure a ban was imposed by mid-2024, unless governments acted first.

Bunnings said its decision to halt sale of the stone from December 31 followed the Safe Work Australia report and consultation with suppliers.

“While there has been clear indication from NSW and other state governments that they will legislate a ban on the product, we are proactively making this decision to allow suppliers and customers time to prepare for a transition,” it said.

“The vast majority of benchtops we sell in our stores are laminate and timber, but we’re already well progressed with sourcing other alternative products and we’re working closely with our suppliers and customers to support them through the change.”

Bunnings said the change would give its suppliers certainty about sourcing materials, and also mean the company would remain compliant with any looming legal changes.

On Tuesday, the CFMEU said its peaceful protests and community education about the dangers of the engineered stone had worked.

“Bunnings should be congratulated for eventually doing the right thing and pulling these deadly benchtops from their shelves,” Smith said.

“The only reason Bunnings finally sided with workers’ health was grassroots pressure from CFMEU members passionate about saving lives.”

He also urged other retailers, including Ikea, to follow the big hardware chain.

“All retailers must follow suit immediately. Ikea talks a big game on social responsibility yet lines its shelves with benchtops that kill Australians,” Smith said.

“Today all governments and businesses are on notice that Australians will accept nothing less than a total ban on the import, manufacture and use of engineered stone.

“The CFMEU won’t rest until the asbestos of our generation is stopped forever.”

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