30 October 2023

A Safe Work Australia report has recommended a prohibition on the use of all engineered stone, irrespective of crystalline silica content, to protect the health and safety of workers.

The Decision Regulation Impact Statement: Prohibition on the use of engineered stone (Decision RIS) was developed by Safe Work Australia at the request of WHS ministers and was informed by stakeholder consultation, independent economic analysis, and an expert review of evidence.

The recommendation for a prohibition is based on the following:

  • Engineered stone workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) are significantly over-represented in silicosis cases. Engineered stone workers are being diagnosed with silicosis at a much younger age than workers from other industries.
  • Engineered stone is physically and chemically different to natural stone. The high levels of RCS generated by working with engineered stone, as well as the differing properties of this RCS, are likely to contribute to more rapid and severe disease.
  • There is no toxicological evidence of a ‘safe’ threshold of crystalline silica content in engineered stone, or that other chemicals found in engineered stone do not pose a health risk to workers.
  • Silicosis and silica-related diseases are preventable. However, a persistent lack of compliance with, and enforcement of, the obligations imposed under WHS laws across the engineered stone industry at all levels have not protected workers from the health risks associated with RCS.

Safe Work Australia provided the Decision RIS to Commonwealth, state and territory work health and safety (WHS) ministers on 16 August 2023 for their consideration.

While WHS ministers are yet to make a decision on the recommendation in the Decision RIS to prohibit the use of all engineered stone, they have agreed Safe Work Australia publish the Decision RIS ahead of their decision.

This Decision RIS builds on the evidence and analysis previously considered by WHS ministers in, and should be read in conjunction with, the Decision Regulation Impact Statement: Managing the risks of respirable crystalline silica at work.

The Decision Regulation Impact Statement: Prohibition on the use of engineered stone, and responses to the public consultation can be downloaded from the Safe Work Australia website.

The timing of a decision by WHS ministers on the prohibition on the use of engineered stone is a matter for government. Information on meetings of WHS ministers can be found on the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations website.