Unions Plan To Ban Engineered Stone if Governments Fail To Act

Australian trade unions have warned that they will ban engineered stone by mid-next year if the government doesn’t act first.

This move is in response to the potential risk of developing silicosis, an incurable, debilitating, and potentially fatal disease caused by cutting and grinding engineered stone. 

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Engineered stone is commonly used to make kitchen and bathroom countertops and is found in various sectors such as mining, construction, tunnelling, and manufacturing.

An estimated over 600,000 workers are exposed to its potential risks. 

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has taken a stand against the use of engineered stone due to the alarming forecasts that indicate 100,000 silicosis diagnoses and an additional 10,000 cancer cases may occur this century if exposure isn’t significantly reduced. 

ACTU assistant secretary Liam O’Brien criticised companies manufacturing engineered stone for failing to protect workers even when they were aware of the dangers.

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“Safe working conditions enjoyed by workers today were not given to us by governments or employers, they were fought for and won by workers and their unions,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The ACTU’s executive is sending a clear message that the government should ban this hazardous product to ensure the well-being of workers,” he said.

Kathryn Townsend, an expert in dust diseases litigation at Shine Lawyers, said that the federal government possesses the necessary evidence to justify a ban on engineered stone, given the known risks of exposure to toxic silica dust.

“If the federal government continues to do nothing, more workers will get sick and their lives will be pointlessly cut short.”

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