Concerns in Australian Building Sector Over Engineered Stone Safety Risks

Concerns in Australian Building Sector Over Engineered Stone Safety Risks

The ban on engineered stone products in Australia, initiated in December 2023 and implemented from July 1, 2024, has halted the installation of new benchtops made from this material. However, concerns are rising within the building sector about the safety risks posed by existing engineered stone products that are already in homes and buildings. The ban has left builders and customers seeking alternative solutions within similar budget constraints, leading to disputes in fulfilling pre-existing plans.

Although the engineered stone benchtops are deemed safe if left undisturbed, the risks emerge when renovation or demolition work requires the manipulation of the material, creating airborne silica dust that poses a health hazard to workers. The popularity and widespread use of engineered stone over the past few decades mean that these legacy stone benchtops are expected to remain in buildings for at least another 30 to 50 years, exposing workers to risks associated with silica dust inhalation. Experts have highlighted the necessity for strict safety measures, such as dust control and proper personal protective equipment, when working with legacy stone to minimize the exposure to hazardous dust particles.

Despite the safety requirements for cutting engineered stone and the use of protective measures during repairs or demolition work, there are currently no specific regulations for the disposal of this material. The lack of guidance on disposal adds to the challenges faced by the building sector in managing the existing legacy stone products. Additionally, there is a call for comprehensive planning and adherence to safety protocols, including the use of specialized tools that can capture dust effectively and reduce the risks associated with silica dust exposure.