SA’s ban on engineered stone begins July 1 – here’s what it means if it’s in your house

Starting July 1, 2024, South Australia will enact a ban on engineered stone products to prevent silicosis, a fatal lung disease.

Effective from 1 July 2024, South Australia will enforce a complete ban on engineered stone products to prevent the fatal lung disease, silicosis, among workers. The prohibition, as announced by Kyam Maher MLC, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector, will entail the manufacture, supply, processing, and installation of engineered stone benchtops, panels, and slabs.

In preparation for the new regulations, SafeWork SA has initiated a comprehensive statewide campaign. The program aims to increase awareness among businesses, workers, consumers, and the public about the impending ban. It features multiple channels of communication including press and radio advertising, distribution of factsheets, educational webinars, and prominent social media engagements.

Engineered stone, often used for aesthetic benchtops in kitchens and bathrooms, contains respirable crystalline silica. When processed, it releases fine dust particles that can lead to silicosis upon inhalation—a severe and incurable lung disease that can result in permanent disability or death. The only known remedy for advance stages of the disease is lung transplantation.

The decision to ban these materials followed a unanimous agreement among Commonwealth, State and Territory Work Health and Safety Ministers. It was prompted by recommendations from Safe Work Australia, which acknowledged a significant rise in silicosis cases among workers handling these materials.

The amended work health and safety regulations will also:
– Allow for minor modifications, repairs, and removal of existing engineered stone installations prior to the ban date.
– Require businesses to inform SafeWork SA before undertaking any permitted works, with penalties imposed for non-compliance.
– Establish procedures to apply for exemptions on certain engineered stone products if proven they can be handled safely.

Alternative materials such as porcelain, stainless steel, and natural stones like marble and granite are recommended for future use.

More extensive amendments to crystalline silica regulations will kick in on 1 September 2024, enhancing safety measures across various industries. These adjustments include additional risk assessments, mandated training, and rigorous air quality monitoring.

if you already have engineered stone in your workplace or home, it is safe once installed, as long as it remains undisturbed. As such, householders are not required to remove engineered stone installed prior to 1 July. If you want to renovate or have the stone removed however, it’s crucial you use a tradesperson who abides by the new regulations, and notifies SafeWork SA in advance of any permitted minor works – failure to do so will constitute an offence.

Kyam Maher stated, “Silicosis is a rapidly growing problem across Australia. The ban on engineered stone will protect South Australia’s stone workers and tradies from the fatal effects of respirable silica dust. We are undertaking an extensive community awareness campaign about the ban so there is no excuse for businesses that don’t comply with the new regulations.”

Glenn Farrell, Executive Director of SafeWork SA, added, “SafeWork SA is providing guidance on compliance with the ban to help protect workers, businesses, and the public. We will be actively monitoring adherence to the new regulations through audits and inspections.”

The sentiment was echoed by SA Unions Secretary Dale Beasley, who highlighted the broader implications of the ban: “This ban is not just a regulatory measure; it is a promise that the health and safety of future generations remains a priority. It also serves as a tribute to the workers who have been afflicted by silicosis, whose bravery and advocacy were crucial in instituting this ban.”

More information is available via the SafeWork SA website: safework.sa.gov.au. The website provides comprehensive resources and support for those affected by the upcoming changes.

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