Ikea joins Bunnings in dumping engineered stone

Ikea says it will join Bunnings in dropping engineered stone from its kitchen benchtop range.

Ikea says it will join Bunnings in dropping engineered stone from its kitchen benchtop range. Photo: AAP

Homewares giant Ikea will join Bunnings in phasing out potentially deadly engineered-stone products from its Australian outlets.

The Swedish retailer’s announcement on Wednesday followed the hardware chain’s decision to dump the potentially deadly product.

“We have been monitoring the issue, including the recent analysis and recommendation from Safe Work Australia on the risks associated with engineered stone products,” Ikea Australia said in a statement on Wednesday.

“IKEA Australia will begin the process of phasing out engineered stone products from our local range, ahead of government action.

“Engineered stone benchtops form just part of the IKEA range and many alternative materials are available.”

However, Ikea has given no firm date to dump engineered stone from its range. The popular product, which is linked to the deadly disease silicosis, has been the subject of a concentrated union campaign for a national ban.

“We strongly support a nationally aligned approach from governments to provide clarity and ensure coordinated action across the country,” Ikea said.

Unions claimed credit on Tuesday for Bunnings’ decision to stop selling engineered stone by December 31.

Unions had urged the chain, which is owned by retail and industrial conglomerate Wesfarmers, to pull engineered-stone benchtops from its line-up to protect workers from the deadly condition. But they also have other retailers in their sights.

“This is the end of the line for engineered stone,” Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union secretary Zach Smith said on Tuesday.

“When even a massive corporation (Bunnings) 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.”

Smith named Ikea, as he urged other retailers to follow Bunnings.

“Ikea talks a big game on social responsibility yet lines its shelves with benchtops that kill Australians,” he said.

Bunnings merchandise director Jen Tucker said on Tuesday its decision was directly in response to recommendations from Safe Work Australia and looming government bans.

“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,” she said.

“The decision to adjust our range now will give our suppliers certainty about future sourcing of materials and should mean we’re well positioned to offer a fully compliant range well ahead of any changes being mandated.”

Safe Work Australia last month recommended a ban on engineered stone products to prevent workers developing deadly diseases and cancers.

Workers can be exposed to silica dust if their jobs involve breaking, crushing, grinding or milling materials high in silica, such as engineered stone benchtops, bricks, tiles, concrete and some plastic materials.

More than 600,000 workers are exposed to materials with high silica contents in sectors such as mining, building and construction, tunnelling and manufacturing.

State and federal governments have been unable to agree on a national approach to engineered stone, despite the safety watchdog’s recommendation.

NSW and other states have threatened to push ahead with their own bans if no agreement is reached at a meeting planned for mid-December.

-with AAP

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