Law firm supports calls for national ban on engineered stone
National law firm Slater and Gordon has welcomed the recommendations from the Safe Work Australia report proposing a national ban on engineered stone. The law firm has urged governments not to waste time in acting on it, having previously called for banning the importation, manufacturing and use of engineered stone in Australia. Slater and Gordon Head of National Asbestos and Dust Disease Joanne Wade said that acting quickly on the ban will save Australian workers’ lives. Wade added that the law firm has seen an increase in cases of silica-related diseases arising, often at the advanced and debilitating stages, due to exposure to silica dust from engineered stone.
“These cases are workers in the prime of their life, with young families, mortgages and a whole lifetime ahead of them. There is no cure for silicosis and silica-related diseases, but they can be prevented. It has long been our firm’s position that workers will keep dying unless we ban engineered stone and stop the exposure to this deadly dust. We are also worried about the rate of undiagnosed silica-related injuries in workers and retired workers in industries where monitoring has not historically been imposed,” Wade said.
Inhaling crystalline silica dust while cutting, grinding, polishing or drilling engineered stone used for kitchen or bathroom benches can lead to silicosis. Crystalline silica is also found in quartz, sand, stone, soil, granite, brick, cement, grout, soil, mortar and bitumen. Industries that are exposed to silica dust include road works, tunnelling, stonemasonry, quarries, concreting, excavating, pottery, bricklaying, tiling and any other occupation that requires cutting or drilling into concrete (such as carpentry or plumbing).
“Not all of these industries have had compulsory health monitoring introduced. That is why, while we support a ban, we will continue to call for all workers exposed to silica dust to be given access to mandatory high-resolution CT chest scans,” Wade said.
Approximately 600,000 workers are exposed to silica dust in Australian workplaces every year across all industries, with research estimating that if these exposures are not reduced, it is likely that over the course of this century, there will be almost as many as 100,000 workers diagnosed with silicosis and a further 11,000 workers diagnosed with cancer.
“It is no exaggeration to say that banning engineered stone in benchtops will prevent the tragic deaths of many workers in this country, but we must act quickly, and we will proudly continue to stand with the unions who are calling for a national ban on engineered stone. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and ban the use of deadly engineered stone products. Workers’ lives are on the line,” Wade said.
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