Imports of stone benchtops could be banned

·1-min read

Imports of engineered stone popular in Australian kitchens and bathrooms could be banned unless employers lift their game to protect workers from silica dust exposure.

A federal task force says health and safety regulations aren't properly protecting workers from dust exposure linked to the deadly lung disease silicosis.

Its final report released on Monday stopped short of recommending an immediate ban on imports.

But the task force said Australia should get ready to ban some or all product imports from July 2024 in the absence of significant industry changes.

Nearly one in four people who have worked with engineered stone since 2018 suffer from silicosis or other diseases related to silica dust, according to data from Queensland and Victoria.

"Maintaining the status quo is not acceptable," the report said.

Silicosis is caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica released when engineered stone is cut, ground or polished.

Prevalent in Australia between the 1940s and 1960s, the disease has re-emerged due to the increasing popularity of engineered stone benchtops.

The report said businesses working with the material were on notice to improve, including by regularly monitoring and recording silica dust levels and employee health.

It added Australia should also put in motion plans to ban imports if there are no measurable or acceptable improvements in compliance with regulations.

The development of national guidelines was recommended to identify those at risk from silica dust exposure, and improve health screening for current and former workers.

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