Union urges speedy ban of stone benchtops

August 12, 2023 BY

CFMEU boss Zach Smith has called for the banning of engineered stone benchtops sooner. Photo: MICK TSIKAS/ AAP IMAGE

AUSTRALIA’S construction union is ramping up calls for a nationwide ban on engineered stone benchtops to protect workers from deadly diseases.

Products with high silica levels, more commonly found in bench tops, have been linked with the incurable lung disease silicosis and cancer.

The CFMEU has pledged to outlaw the product on its sites from July 2024 but union boss Zach Smith wants a wider ban enforced sooner.

“We would hope the federal government would act and state and territory governments would act before we get to that point of banning, and they would institute their own ban on the engineering, manufacture and importation of engineered stone,” he said.

“We know this product is killing workers.

“One quarter of that whole sector is contracting some form of deadly dust disease which is, in all but the rarest of cases, a life sentence.”

Safe Work Australia is looking at what sort of silica-based products would need to be banned and how it would be enforced, following a meeting of responsible state and federal ministers.

A national registry will be established for workplace respiratory diseases.

Mr Smith said the response to banning engineered stone benchtops could take lessons from how asbestos products were outlawed decades ago.

“What is often forgotten about the campaign around asbestos eradication was that trade unions and building unions banned the products on site, banned work with those products before governments acted,” he said.

“We may very well be in a similar situation here with the ban on engineered stone.

“We have made it abundantly clear that we will not sit back and wait for governments to act on engineered stone.”