New South Wales (NSW) has joined other Australian states and territories to ban the use, supply and manufacture of engineered stone.
The state governments of Victoria and Queensland in particular expressed their commitment to this move.
The national ban makes Australia the first country to take such a decision.
Engineered stone is a durable and affordable alternative to natural materials such as granite and marble. It is widely used in kitchen and bathroom benchtops.
The move comes on the heels of a review of the Safe Work Australia Decision Regulatory Impact Statement, which revealed unsafe levels of silica dust in engineered stone.
At an Industrial Relations Ministers Meeting, both state and federal workplace ministers agreed to ban the material as a result of this.
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The meeting’s official statement confirmed a unanimous decision to implement a ban effective from 1 July 2024.
Recent years have seen a significant rise in the rates of silicosis and other diseases linked to silica among Australian workers, with engineered stone workers receiving a disproportionately high number of diagnoses.
Earlier this year, NSW passed new laws to impose double penalties on employers who expose their workers to silica dust.
Details on the implementation of the ban, including the regulation of legacy products and transitional arrangements for contracts signed, are planned to be finalised by work health and safety ministers in March 2024.
Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said: “Queensland is extremely proud to have led a national campaign which has culminated in a ban on the use of engineered stone.
“This is a dangerous product that’s known to cause the potentially fatal disease silicosis, and it has no place in our workplaces.
“Major retailers, including Bunnings and IKEA, have already announced they will phase out sales of engineered stone and I encourage other retailers to follow their example.”