Federal Taskforce fails dying and vulnerable stonemasons

23 January 2020
Leading dust diseases law firm, Maurice Blackburn has slammed the Federal Government’s National Dust Disease Taskforce’s interim report as pathetic and weak.

Maurice Blackburn Principal, Jonathan Walsh said the Taskforce’s interim advice to the Federal Health Minister which has been publicly released today completely failed to recognise the urgency of the deadly silicosis crisis gripping the stone industry.

“Workers are dying and the Federal Government is effectively sitting on its hands when it has an opportunity to show leadership and move quickly to ensure the health and safety of current and future stonemasons.

“We already know what is causing the extraordinary rise in silicosis and what needs to be done to address it, but we are still waiting for a sense of national urgency on this issue,” Mr Walsh said.

“For a Taskforce, it’s done no tasks and shown no force.”

Mr Walsh said the Taskforce has failed to recommend the immediate national implementation of what is known to be best practice when it comes to the levels of dust in the workplace and the safest way to cut the stone.

Maurice Blackburn is calling on the Taskforce to urgently recommend:

  • The immediate complete and total banning of all forms of dry cutting of engineered stone;
  • The immediate adoption of mandatory forms of wet cutting;
  • The adoption of an exposure standard for respirable crystalline silica of 0.025 milligrams per cubic metre (per 8 hour shift).
  • Immediate consideration for a ban on imported manufactured stone products

“Of course the Federal Government needs to work with the States to do this, but this is a crisis that affects workers across the country and there must be national leadership.

“There is absolutely no sense of urgency in this report or in the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt’s response.

“They’ve both just effectively kicked the can down the road with no firm timeframes sitting behind any of the advice to the Minister,” Mr Walsh said

“More broadly, these recommendations - such as they are - should not be limited to engineered stone, but to encompass all natural stone products as well.”

Mr Walsh said the Taskforce report will not have any practical impact in terms of on the ground activity for workers at all. 

“Stonemasons and their families need to know that doing their job will not rob them of their health or life.”

Media inquiries:  Rebecca Nash at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on 0438 497 539

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