Historic nationwide ban on engineered stone comes into effect today

Historic nationwide ban on engineered stone comes into effect today
Image: Gerain0812, Shutterstock

A world-first ban on engineered stone, a harmful silica-based product commonly used for kitchen bench tops, has come into force today.

The nationwide ban comes into effect Monday July 1, after federal, state and territory workplace ministers reached an agreement in December.

The product can lead to silicosis, a disease that is caused by breathing in crystalline silica dust found in the manufactured stone.

Acting Minister for Work Health and Safety Tara Moriarty said, “Silicosis is preventable, and this ban will save lives.”

“It is a fundamental right of every worker to go to work and come home safely to their loved ones at the end of the day.”

But behind the ban is years of union campaigning, most notably by the Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU), whose nationwide protests put pressure on major retailers like Bunnings and IKEA to stop selling the product.

“Our union has stopped the asbestos of the 2020s in its tracks,” CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith said.

“This ban will save lives and protect workers’ families and friends from enduring more senseless deaths.”

Ahead of the legislation passing last year, unions vowed to stop engineered stone entering worksites by July 2024, if governments did not outlaw it by then.

But the work isn’t over, Smith says.

The union leader has expressed concerns that companies could be seeking to rebrand dangerous engineered stone products under other titles and names.

“While this is undoubtedly a day to celebrate, I want to send a clear warning that the CFMEU will be watching like hawks for any company, employer or individual trying to get around this ban,” Smith said.

Almost 600,000 Australian workers are regularly exposed to silica dust as part of their employment, according to a Lung Foundation Australia estimate in 2023.


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