Media Releases

Unions applaud government moves to ban silica

February 28, 2023

Unions commend the Federal and South Australian Governments on their decision to support strong action towards banning engineered stone, which causes silicosis. The move comes after calls from the union movement to ban the materials that cause the deadly dust.

Today the Work Health & Safety Ministers of all states and territories agreed for the national body, SafeWork Australia to commence analysis and consultation with a plan to prohibit the deadly products.

The South Australian Government has opened the door to "go it alone and pursue ban on a state-level if there is no national action by the end of the year".

Silicosis is a debilitating lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust, which is found in materials such as engineered stone. The disease is irreversible, and there is no cure. In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in cases of silicosis.

The South Australian Government is currently consulting on much-needed reform to the work health safety system in South Australia, and SafeWork SA, following the damning report from John Merritt, identifying a litany of failures of the regulator.

"Silica dust is a deadly and preventable hazard, like asbestos before it. It's imperative that employers and governments learn from past mistakes and take action to prevent further harm to workers and the community."

"Right now, there are hundreds of South Australian construction workers, manufacturing workers, and home renovators breathing in this deadly dust. More than 10,000 Australians will go on to develop lung cancer from Silica exposure."  

"Sadly, recent reporting has shown us that employers out there know how dangerous engineered stone is yet have failed to protect workers from harm. That's why this action from government is so crucial and significant."

"To guarantee the safety of all workers in SA, we need to significantly reform the work health safety system and SafeWork SA. Workers need to have confidence that the regulator will ensure employers are keeping their workplaces safe."

"Today marks a significant milestone for workers and a major leap forward, for a long time, unions have been calling for action to be taken to protect workers from silica dust. We are pleased to see Government taking this issue seriously."

"Our country is already an important voice on asbestos safety internationally, Australia has an opportunity to lead the world on silica safety. Where we lead, the rest of the world will follow."