Ministers deny tradies transition period for engineered stone

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
3 Min Read

One territory has doubled down on its strict cutoff date for tradies fulfilling back orders of deadly engineered stone. 

After discovering the fatal risk of handling silica-infused stone, Work, Health and Safety (WHS) ministers unanimously agreed to ban the use, supply and manufacture of all engineered stone benchtops, panels and slabs as of June 1st 2024. 

With a backlog of legacy contracts already lined up by smaller product providers before the ban’s announcement, ministers also agreed that states and territories may adopt transitional provisions as they seek an alternative business approach. 

But the ACT, which has the toughest laws in the country around engineered stone products, has announced that it won’t budge on its timeline, potentially leaving tradies and homeowners thousands of dollars out of pocket. 

Housing Industry Association (HIA) Director Greg Weller said WHS ministers severely underestimated the impact the ban would have on the community and the industry as a whole. 

“There is a significant volume of new homes and apartments currently under construction and scheduled to be built over the next 1-2 years, and engineered stone has been the predominant product specified for use in kitchen and bathrooms,” said Weller.

 “During the December 2023 quarter (before the ban was announced), the ACT approved 294 detached homes and 1,887 townhouses and apartments.

“The vast majority of the detached homes, and none of the multi-residential, will have benchtops installed by 30 June.

“That is potentially over two thousand building and sales contracts that will be varied. The consequence being an increase in prices for consumers and significant administrative burden for small business.”

Rules vary from state to state

This refusal comes only days after NSW, SA, NT and WA agreed to the 6-month transition period, citing the need for small businesses to fulfil existing contracts with “less disruption and uncertainty.”

But the ACT isn’t alone. Victoria has also decided to forgo the grace period, with the state’s WorkSafe organisation labelling the risk “unacceptable.” 

QLD has yet to announce any formal transition policy as it continues to weigh the impacts on its growing housing construction pipeline. 

With rules and regulations varying wildly across state lines, Weller says the confusion will make the ban’s implementation difficult for small businesses. 

“With NSW supporting the transition period, it will be absurd that contracts will be able to be honoured across the border but not in the ACT,” he said.

“Builders, kitchen suppliers and stonemasons’ risk being in a position where they can meet the pre-existing contract with one customer, but not another, though they may only be a few kilometres apart.”

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.