National engineered stone ban closer with WA backing

Aaron Bunch |

Construction industry unions have repeatedly called for a national ban on engineered stone.
Construction industry unions have repeatedly called for a national ban on engineered stone.

The West Australian government has thrown its support behind a proposed ban on silicosis-causing engineered stone, paving the way for a likely nationwide prohibition of its use.

Safe Work Australia last month recommended that engineered stone products be prohibited to prevent workers from developing deadly diseases and cancers.

NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania have already backed the move, which will be discussed when work health and safety ministers from across the nation meet next month.

Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston on Wednesday said WA would join a national ban on the future use of engineered stone in workplaces.

The state has recorded 48 cases of silicosis since 2018, and 43 involve workers employed in the engineered stone industry.

“There is currently no information on what a safe level of silica in engineered stone is,” Mr Johnston said.

“The rate of silicosis, which is a serious and potentially fatal disease, in WA is unacceptable.

Construction industry unions have repeatedly called for a national ban on engineered stone. 

Swedish homewares giant IKEA joined Bunnings earlier in the month in ditching the product, which has been proven to cause cancers. 

Independent Hardware Group, which owns Mitre 10, Home Hardware, Total Tools and Hardings, will also remove engineered stone products from displays at its retail outlets.

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 content in sectors such as mining, building and construction, tunnelling and manufacturing.

State and federal governments have previously been unable to agree on a national approach to implement the safety watchdog’s recommendation.

SA last week threatened to introduce its own legislation to prohibit engineered stone if banned nationwide ban isn’t in force by the end of the year.

NSW is also prepared to enact its own ban on engineered stone benchtops if a national agreement cannot be reached.

AAP