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Government Federal, Industrial Relations

Engineered stone ban welcome, but much more needed to save workers from silicosis

Australian Workers' Union < 1 mins read

The ban on engineered stone products will save lives, according to the Australian Workers’ Union, but it will sadly not end the scourge of silicosis among Australian workers.

The AWU has warmly welcomed the federal government’s announcement of a ban on engineered stone products. But AWU National Secretary Paul Farrow has pointed out that much more reform is needed to stop workers being exposed to deadly silica dust.

“It’s fantastic that engineered stone has been banned, but also vital to maintain perspective. There are some 4000 stonemasons in Australia, but around 600,000 workers who are exposed to silica dust,” Mr Farrow said.

“Unfortunately, for most of this 600,000, there can be no ban on the materials that expose them to silica in industries such as construction, tunnelling, quarrying, mining, road work and more.

“So reform is more complex, but no less important. Primarily we need to strengthen the Work Health and Safety Act to provide a clear definition for high-risk silica work and introduce strong provisions for working around the hazard.

“This will require the state governments to follow through with the necessary changes and adopt the changes in their jurisdictions.

“Right now tunnelling companies often go out of their way to stop our officials from monitoring dust on site. They've regularly sent workers into tunnels with poor ventilation and dangerous levels of dust. That has to end.

"Unsafe levels of silica dust causes silicosis and silicosis causes death. We know this to be true and we won't sit idly by while we believe workers are being exposed."

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