Master Builders Victoria  supports the Victorian and Federal governments’ call on further consultation around silica in engineered stone, as they move forward with tasking Safe Work Australia (SWA) to undertake further analysis of the potential prohibition of the use of engineered stone.

Victoria has some of the strongest regulation around silica having implemented Crystalline Silica regulations in 2022 that include additional training requirements; a licensing regime for engineered stone; a requirement to conduct air monitoring and other specific risk control measures. These Victorian obligations remain in place to help prevent workers being exposed to Crystalline Silica in the workplace.

MBV’s focus has always been on education and awareness if workplace hazards and welcomes the delivery of national awareness and behaviour change initiatives, and recognises the importance of a raised awareness of risk control measures available to the industry.

Master Builders Victoria CEO (Interim) Michaela Lihou said the organisation strongly supported the additional work being undertaken on silica related exposure risks, acknowledging the concerning rates of preventable lung disease caused by uncontrolled dust exposure, particularly when working with engineered stone.

“Let’s be very clear. One work related death is one too many,” she said. “Just as the industry unions do, we want workers in our industry to be safe. Master Builders Victoria is committed to ensuring workplaces are free from high-risk silica hazards and that any regulatory changes are effective and doing what they are designed to do.”

“The important thing is for Government to undertake extensive consultation to understand the impacts arising from the decisions it makes. It’s important that there is a clear and consistent approach and we support Safe Work Australia in taking positive and risk proportionate steps to ensure the safety of workers.”

Ms Lihou noted that manufacturers had invested significant funds into developing new and innovative products with a low silica content, in response to the concerns about the composition of current engineered stone.  Any blanket ban that is not risk proportionate would send the wrong message to businesses that are innovating and investing to continuously improve products and processes to minimise risk.

“We need to make sure that if there is potentially a blanket ban delivered, that it is an appropriate and carefully considered response to the current challenges,” she said.

“Our industry’s builders and employers continue to abide by the current OHS regulations to tackle silica hazards at the industry level, which has resulted in significant and substantial changes in how workplaces control silica-related hazards, including the halving of the workplace exposure standard.”

“There is no doubt this is a major challenge and we look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Government and all appropriate authorities to work towards a sensible and considered outcome.”

Media enquiries: Leigh McClusky 0411 711 780