Construction union pressures government to ban “killer stone”

by Sophie Berrill
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The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has launched a rare action to ban the use of engineered stone if the Federal Government fails to do so by mid-2024.

The incoming CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith launched the Stop This Killer Stone campaign at the union’s national conference last week. The campaign urges the Federal Government to ban engineered stone products by July 2024.

Working with engineered stone can expose people to silica dust, which is a significant health hazard for workers. Inhaling the small particles can lead to a range of potentially fatal respiratory diseases, including silicosis.

The union cited modelling by Curtin University that estimates 10,000 workers in Australia across all sectors will develop lung cancer, and up to 103,000 will be diagnosed with silicosis as a result of their current exposure to silica dust at work.

The CFMEU’s ultimatum

The union has issued an ultimatum to the government, saying it will ban the use of engineered stone products if the government fails to do so.

“Australian workers will keep dying unless we ban engineered stone,” Smith said. 

“Engineered stone is the asbestos of the 2020s. That’s exactly why we’re taking this extremely rare step of flagging a ban on CFMEU members working with this killer stone.

Smith also flagged that any modest cost increases for consumers “will save lives”.

“Australia has one of the world’s most voracious cheap bench top habits and it could claim thousands of lives unless we quit.”

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