Commonwealth, State and Territory Work Health and Safety Ministers met yesterday to resolve to ban the production and use of engineered stone across Australia from July 1, 2024, due to major health concerns for workers potentially exposed to silica.

Master Builders Victoria (MBV) acknowledges that preventable silica-related diseases must be addressed in industries where there is a high-risk of accelerated silicosis and occupational lung diseases.

MBV CEO Michaela Lihou says while the organisation supports the ruling, the full details about the impacts and implementation of the changes have not yet been determined.

“There are still many unanswered questions about how this transition will be completed, with State and Territory Ministers now not scheduled to meet until March 2024 to further discuss details of how these changes will be introduced across a majority of jurisdictions, including Victoria,” she says.

“It is crucial that any changes come with clear, simple and practical rules so that businesses know what they need to do to comply and by when, and what transition arrangements will be in place.”

“Due to the incoming ban, MBV members are asked not to enter into contracts for engineered stone products from January 1, 2024, given the contracts may not be able to be legally fulfilled.” 

Ms Lihou says the building and construction industry needed full and thorough details about the state of any relevant contractual obligations, including under existing fixed-price residential contracts; the availability and delivery (or otherwise) of suitable alternative products at a similar price point; and the implications for businesses that already have significant quantities of engineered stone products in stock, in the absence of any compensation or buy-back schemes.

“We are of course, committed to working closely with Safe Work Australia through the details of yesterday’s decision but urge the Government to now focus urgently on the practical implications of this decision to clarify the legal uncertainties we fear the building and construction industry could be faced with,” says Ms Lihou.

“We also support Safe Work Australia conducting further research which may allow for some engineered products to be exempt and whether alternative products, with appropriate controls, can continue to be used safely.”

Available for comment: Master Builders Victoria CEO Michaela Lihou. 
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