"Tackling Silicosis: Urgent Call for a Ban on Engineered Stone to Safeguard Workers"silicosis,engineeredstone,workersafety,occupationalhealth,ban,workplacehazards
"Tackling Silicosis: Urgent Call for a Ban on Engineered Stone to Safeguard Workers"

“Tackling Silicosis: Urgent Call for a Ban on Engineered Stone to Safeguard Workers”

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Engineered stone ban needed to protect workers from silicosis, Safe Work Australia report says

A new report has called for a ban on engineered stone

A recent report released by Safe Work Australia has called for a complete ban on all engineered stone in Australia, citing the “unacceptable risk to workers” posed by the material. Engineered stone, commonly used for kitchen benchtops, has been linked to a high incidence of silicosis among stonemasons due to its high silica content.

High risk and irreversible consequences

The report highlights that workers in the engineered stone industry not only face a greater risk of developing silicosis, but also experience faster disease progression and a higher chance of death when they contract the disease. Silicosis, an irreversible lung condition, can cause premature death and has become a significant health crisis. The report states that regulators have failed to adequately protect workers from this deadly disease and that a complete ban is the only option.

Workers demand action

Unions and health experts have been calling for a total ban on engineered stone, citing the risks it poses to workers. The report’s release has further fueled these demands, with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) vowing to stop the use of engineered stone in worksites by July 2024 if governments do not take action.

A national response required

National Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has acknowledged the need for further action and has stated that state and federal government ministers will meet later this year to decide on the next steps. However, critics argue that action should have been taken sooner, given that the dangers of engineered stone have been known for years.

Industrial manslaughter and urgent action demanded

Doctors warn of a lung disease crisis

Doctors have been sounding the alarm since 2018 about the silicosis “epidemic,” comparing it to the lung disease crisis caused by asbestos. They argue that failing to ban engineered stone is akin to “industrial manslaughter” as it exposes workers to harm and premature death.

Government urged to act

Despite calls for more regulation and transitioning to engineered stone with lower silica levels, the report concludes that even lower-silica content engineered stone still poses a risk to workers. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has emphasized the need for a national response and a transition to safer benchtop products.

Support for affected workers

There is also a pressing need to support workers who have already been diagnosed with silicosis. Assistant Secretary of the ACTU, Liam O’Brien, has highlighted that workers’ compensation is inadequate in supporting workers with diseases like silicosis. Efforts should be made to ensure that these workers receive the best possible treatment for their condition.

Conclusion and Editorial

The report by Safe Work Australia underscores the urgent need for a ban on engineered stone to protect workers from the devastating consequences of silicosis. The higher risk, faster progression, and higher mortality rates associated with the disease make it imperative that action is taken immediately.

While some argue for more regulation and education on safety measures, the report makes it clear that even lower-silica content engineered stone poses a risk to workers, leaving no room for compromise.

The comparison to the asbestos crisis is not to be taken lightly. Governments must recognize their responsibility and take swift action to protect workers from this preventable tragedy. The lives of workers are at stake, and anything less than a complete ban is unacceptable.

In addition to a ban, there is also a need for ongoing support and treatment for workers who have already been diagnosed with silicosis. The current workers’ compensation system falls short in providing sufficient help to those suffering from this debilitating and potentially fatal disease.

It is crucial that governments listen to the demands of unions, health experts, and affected workers and take immediate action to implement a ban on engineered stone. The health and safety of workers should always take precedence over the convenience and cost savings associated with certain building materials.


"Tackling Silicosis: Urgent Call for a Ban on Engineered Stone to Safeguard Workers"
<< photo by Polina Kuzovkova >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.

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Edwards Jake

G'day, I'm Jake Edwards, the man on the street. I've been crisscrossing this great country, bringing you the human stories that make Australia what it is. From interviews with local legends to the everyday Aussie battlers, I'm here to tell your stories. So let's yarn, Australia

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