The ban is the culmination of a years-long campaign by unions, clinicians, and workers. Experts say that engineered stone “exploded” through the mid-2000s as a cheaper and more durable alternative to marble and granite. It is used predominantly in kitchens and bathrooms.
The campaign started after problems were identified around 2015, as silicosis cases rose among those involved in its cutting and handling. In December last year, federal and state work health and safety ministers implemented a full ban after Safe Work Australia released a report recommending a complete prohibition on the use of all engineered stone in Australia.
Experts estimate that 15 to 20 per cent of people who work in this field have silicosis or will develop it. Unions, public health experts, and health and safety specialists had been warning governments about the risks associated with engineered stone for years.
ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien said Australia had learned its lesson from asbestos, which took decades to ban. “Australia’s got a pretty horrible legacy with asbestos, so I think we know very well what happens if you don’t take action early,” he said. “The ban on engineered stone is a direct result of workers and their unions, like the CFMEU, and public health organizations who have demanded that we take the strongest possible action to keep workers safe.”