WA implements six-month transition for engineered stone ban

Thursday, 28 March, 2024

WA implements six-month transition for engineered stone ban

Following a meeting between Work Health and Safety Ministers on 22 March 2024, most jurisdictions across Australia have decided to implement a transition period of six months after the 1 July ban on the supply, installation or processing of engineered stone slabs, panels and benchtops in Western Australia. Under the transition period, work of this nature carried out between 1 July 2024 and 31 December 2024 will be exempt from the prohibition, provided the work falls under a contract entered into on or before 31 December 2023.

Last year, the WA Government announced that the state would join the rest of the country in banning the use of engineered stone in workplaces because the dust generated during its production poses a health risk to workers. A report by Safe Work Australia found that there is no safe level of silica in engineered stone and concluded that the use of engineered stone should be prohibited across Australia.

The WA Government acknowledged that there are businesses and consumers who have already entered into contracts to obtain engineered stone products, and in WA, these contracts will be honoured during the transitional period ending on 31 December 2024.

Engineered stone benchtops and other products already installed in homes do not pose a health hazard, as the finished product does not release dust. However, those working with already installed engineered stone, for example to remove it, will need to notify WorkSafe WA. Further regulations will also be implemented from September 2024 for high-risk silica work in other sectors. This will include the requirement to document a silica risk control plan for high-risk crystalline silica processes, provide silica-specific training, conduct air and health monitoring, and report exceedances of the workplace exposure standard for silica to WorkSafe. These regulations will apply to general industries in Western Australia.

Further work health and safety regulations will also be put into place to cover the changes, with WorkSafe to provide information on the new laws. An announcement about the import prohibition for engineered stone has not been made; this is a matter for the Commonwealth Government.

Industrial Relations Minister Simone McGurk said the six-month transition will help reduce the impact on industry. “The Cook Government recognises the need for urgent action to protect workers. We know that silicosis can kill — and of the 48 silicosis cases identified in WA since 2018, 43 relate to engineered stone. Given mounting scientific evidence there was no question we had to act, and act quickly,” McGurk said.

Image credit: iStock.com/Georgiy Datsenko

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