WorkSafe “makes no apologies” for ditching engineered stone transition period

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
4 Min Read

Victoria’s workplace safety watchdog has doubled down on their decision to scrap a transition period for businesses still handling the deadly silica stone. 

A minister round table late last year rightfully voted in favour of banning the engineered stone product responsible for thousands of tradie workers contracting the killer lung disease known as silicosis, with the cut-off date for contracts being July 1st this year.

In that same meeting, ministers also agreed to a six-month transition period that would allow businesses both large and small time to adjust to the new regulations and fulfil the sizable pipeline of legacy contracts that had been months in the making.

However, the following months have since seen opinions on the transition period divided amongst the states and territories, with Victoria and Queensland emerging as the loudest voices against delaying the full implementation of the ban. 

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said Victoria “made no apologies” for taking the necessary steps to protect workers from deadly silicosis.

“Sadly, Victorians know from experience that safety must always come first when it comes to exposure to deadly crystalline silica dust,” Dr Beer said.

“The risk to our workers is simply too great to wait any longer to ban engineered stone so it’s critical that builders and clients start having those conversations about alternative products as soon as possible.”

With no transition period in place, businesses won’t be able to install engineered stone benchtops, panels or slabs cannot in Victorian premises, even if a contract was entered into before July 1st.

Ditching the “sensible” solution

According to Housing Industry Association Executive Director Keith Ryan, the state has scrapped the only “sensible” approach to the ban. 

“The industry requires adequate time to adapt, and to make necessary adjustments to plans and manufacturing processes, as well as accessing alternate benchtop products to build the high volume of much-needed Victorian homes that the Government has committed to,” he said.

The organisation claims thousands of homes under contract with businesses and builders will be hit hard by the tight fulfilment window due to most home building contracts being signed at least 12 months prior to construction commences.

Worksafe has encouraged businesses and consumers stuck with contracts they won’t be able to fulfil to “discuss suitable substitutes”, which will only add to the already sky-high construction costs and to “settle any disputes in good faith”.

However, the prohibition won’t apply to the removal, repair or modification of already-installed engineered stone benchtops, panels or slabs.

The Victorian Building Authority’s Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, Anna Cronin, said the VBA was “fully supportive” of the state’s measures.

“While the removal of engineered stone is generally low risk in comparison to installation, demolishers and other practitioners working with existing installations need to be mindful of their obligations,” Ms Cronin said.

“This includes complying with current regulations to keep their workers and clients safe by minimising the health risks associated with crystalline silica dust.”

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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.