Engineered Stone (Proposed Ban) Update
As you may know, the industry is waiting for the Australian Government Work Health and Safety Ministers to release a decision about the ongoing use of engineered stone in Australia. At their October meeting, the Ministers acknowledged the importance of addressing engineered stone workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica based upon the Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) delivered by Safe Work Australia.
What is the Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS)?
The Decision Regulation Impact Statement (Decision RIS) analyses the impact of a prohibition on the use of engineered stone under the model WHS laws. You can find the Decision RIS here:
Within the RIS, Safe Work Australia has recommended a prohibition on the use of all engineered stone, irrespective of crystalline silica content.
Safe Work Australia has also recommended the introduction of a licensing scheme to ensure appropriate controls are in place to protect worker health when engineered stone already in place needs to be removed, repaired or modified.
The ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) announced their support of an outright ban on engineered stone following a CFMEU motion. This will mean union members will not allow engineered stone to be transported or used on building sites across Australia. You can read the ACTU’s Media Release here:
What is the position of industry stakeholders?
Some industry groups, the AESAG (Australian Engineered Stone Advisory Group) and engineered stone suppliers are calling for a ban on engineered stone with a silica level greater than 40%, alongside educational campaigns and a regulated licensing scheme. They believe a complete ban on engineered stone – without any thresholds – is not the answer and will not eliminate silicosis.
AESAG have prepared a petition in support of this position and are encouraging stakeholders to sign the form here:
The HIA have indicated that they believe the RIS failed to adequately explore the impact of exposure to RCS from engineered stone, underestimated the effect of a ban on business, and did not recognise the inroads made by the industry to ensure that working with engineered stone can be done safely. The HIA continues to meet with Federal, State and Territory Ministers to express their concerns about an outright ban, and have made a substantive submission.
The decision to prohibit the use of some or all engineered stone is a matter for WHS Ministers. At their October meeting, the Ministers agreed to meet again before the end of 2023 to settle their position.
The KBDi Technical Bulletin (Silica and Silicosis) is available in the Members Portal. This Bulletin was published in December 2022, and until the WHS Ministers announce their decision, it remains current. We encourage all members to read the Bulletin and arm themselves with the facts. The Bulletin outlines the risks associated with silica, along with management strategies and considerations for designers and specifiers.
In anticipation of the Government announcement, we have bookmarked our first videoconference of the year (29 February) to summarise and discuss the outcomes. This will be a member-only event, and we encourage all associate, designer and certified members to join us.