Maurice Blackburn Lawyers is supporting calls in NSW to ban manufactured stone to protect workers from developing life-threatening silicosis in recognition that experts have concluded there is no safe level of exposure to silica dust.
Maurice Blackburn Dust Disease Principal, Jonathan Walsh says there is merit in the motion expected to be put before NSW Upper House today calling for NSW to ban the building product which contains extremely high levels of the dangerous silica dust.
“The number of workers who have developed silicosis through cutting manufactured stone is now in the hundreds, despite the stone only being introduced to Australian in the early 2000s – and there are no doubt many more who have yet to be diagnosed,” Mr Walsh said.
“Inevitably, we must prioritise the health of workers and ban the use of manufactured stone.
“However, it is important to remember that such measures are complex and it will take time to reform the relevant State and Federal laws regarding importation and distribution of products,” Mr Walsh said.
“Of course, a ban in New South Wales alone can only have a limited effect so there must be national action on this urgent worker safety issue.
“That is why it is critical that all state governments take immediate action to implement far more stringent regulations on the use of this dangerous building product.”
Such measures include engineering controls to better protect workers, such as mandated dust extraction and ventilation within workshops and on worksites, the most effective personal protective equipment and a ban on dry cutting.
“Frankly, there is no excuse for such simple and basic measures to protect workers not already being in place.”
Mr Walsh says these measures should be implemented across the stonemasonry industry since it is not only manufactured stone that poses a substantial risk to workers’ health.
“We also can’t forget that natural stone contains inherent dangers for those working with it on a regular basis and that’s why government mandated controls are important.
“There are too many workers – some barely into their twenties – whose futures are blighted by this life-threatening condition,” Mr Walsh said.
“No kitchen bench top is worth that.”
Media inquiries: Jacob O’Shaughnessy at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on 0428 814 03