Safe Work report recommends ban on engineered stone

Workplace health and safety ministers will hold talks to decide whether to ban engineered stone to protect workers.

Workplace health and safety ministers will hold talks to decide whether to ban engineered stone to protect workers. Photo: TND

A report into the health risks of engineered stone benchtops has recommended a complete ban on their use.

Workplace health and safety ministers will meet virtually on Friday to discuss the findings of the Safe Work Australia report into engineered stone, which was commissioned earlier this year.

A decision on implementing the ban is not expected to be made until later this year.

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the power to carry out the ban largely rested with the states, but he wanted to ensure all jurisdictions were on the same page.

“The report is much stronger than I expected it to be,” he told ABC Radio on Friday.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to be making a final decision without the public knowing what’s in the report.”

Kitchen benchtops and other products made from engineered stone have been found to be dangerous, with many workers developing the incurable and deadly disease silicosis.

An estimated 600,000 workers have been exposed to silica dust generated through mining, construction, building and manufacturing.

Mr Burke said industry campaigns against the use of engineered stone were not likely to continue once they saw the report’s recommendation for the ban.

“We have a substance which has been compared to asbestos for a reason … we will be dealing with this as a legacy product for decades to come,” he said.

“I don’t believe there’s any section of Australia that will look lightly at the reality of people losing their lives because they went to work.”

The federal minister said the timeline of any such ban on engineered stone would be in the hands of states and territories.

CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith said engineered stone needed to be banned immediately following the report’s findings, saying those who opposed such moves had “blood on their hands”.

“This report is the final nail in the coffin of the killer stone. There is simply no option for federal and state ministers now aside from banning this deadly product,” he said.

“The science has always been clear: there is no safe exposure to engineered stone. Anyone suggesting otherwise wants to kill workers.”

A previous national task force on dust diseases recommended governments start considering a ban from July 2024.

The ACTU recently pledged to ensure a ban was in place by the middle of next year, if a government prohibition was not in effect

Assistant secretary Liam O’Brien said stronger rules were needed surrounding the material.

“The foreign multi-national corporations that manufacture and import this product have known about the risk it poses for decades and have failed to take the necessary steps or warn and protect workers,” he said.

“We must do more to ban this deadly fashion product. We must also ensure that those that suffer from this disease are supported with improved medical treatment and compensation”.


Topics: Silicosis
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