The New South Wales Government has announced that it will prohibit the manufacture, supply and use of engineered stone, coming into effect from 1 July 2024. 

New South Wales has joined most other states and territories in agreeing to ban the dangerous product. 

The decision was made after careful consideration of the Safe Work Australia Decision Regulatory Impact Statement which found there was no safe level of silica in engineered stone.

Rates of silicosis and silica related diseases in Australian workers have risen substantially in recent years, with a disproportionate number of diagnoses among engineered stone workers.

SafeWork NSW said it will continue to ensure compliance with work health and safety requirements, including site visits and issuing penalties to any operator who is non-compliant.

The WHS ministers also agreed to task Safe Work Australia with further work to strengthen regulations.

The ministers will meet again in March 2024 to finalise the details of the implementation of the ban on the use of engineered stone, including the regulation of legacy products and transitional arrangements for contracts entered into before 13 December.

The WHS ministers will continue nationally consistent and coordinated consultation and messaging for workers, unions, business and consumers.

The New South Wales Government also welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to implement an eventual import ban on engineered stone.

New South Wales Minister for Work Health and Safety, Sophie Cotsis, congratulated all workers, unions, medical experts and businesses that stood side by side and campaigned for the decision. 

“This is about saving lives, the evidence is in, and the State Government has been a strong advocate for this,” Ms Cotsis said. 

“My message to businesses and consumers is this: it’s time for you to stop buying this stuff. Don’t enter into any further contracts.”

Union response

The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of a ban on engineered stone products. 

However, AWU National Secretary, Paul Farrow, has pointed out that much more reform is needed to stop workers being exposed to deadly silica dust.

“It’s fantastic that engineered stone has been banned, but also vital to maintain perspective. There are some 4,000 stonemasons in Australia, but around 600,000 workers who are exposed to silica dust,” Mr Farrow said.

“Unfortunately, for most of this 600,000, there can be no ban on the materials that expose them to silica in industries such as construction, tunnelling, quarrying, mining, road work and more.

“So reform is more complex, but no less important. Primarily we need to strengthen the Work Health and Safety Act to provide a clear definition for high-risk silica work and introduce strong provisions for working around the hazard.” 

Mr Farrow said that this will require the state governments to follow through with the necessary changes and adopt the changes in their jurisdictions.

“Right now tunnelling companies often go out of their way to stop our officials from monitoring dust on site. They’ve regularly sent workers into tunnels with poor ventilation and dangerous levels of dust. That has to end,” Mr Farrow said. 

“Unsafe levels of silica dust cause silicosis and silicosis causes death. We know this to be true and we won’t sit idly by while we believe workers are being exposed.”

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1 Comment
  1. Marcus 6 months ago

    long overdue

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