Engineered stone ban and crystalline silica regulations

Engineered stone ban summary

On 1st July 2024 an engineered stone ban will take effect in all states and territories. The ban prohibits the use, supply, manufacture, processing or installation of engineered stone benchtops, slabs or panels.

Further information is yet to come on:

  • Notifying the regulator when you’re working with already installed engineered stone products.
  • A stricter exemption process for engineered stone products to be excluded from the ban if there is strong evidence they can be used safely in exceptional cases.

 

New crystalline silica regulations

Until now, the focus has been on engineered stone, however crystalline silica can be found in many other building materials. It has just been announced from 1st September 2024 changes to the crystalline silica regulations will be made to further protect workers. Changes include:

  • Banning uncontrolled processing of crystalline silica substances and
  • Requirements to:
    • Develop a Silica Risk Control Plan for all high risk crystalline silica processes such as cutting or grinding 
    • Provide additional training for workers
    • Carry out air and health monitoring  for workers
    • Report to the regulator when the workplace exposure standard is exceeded

A new Code of Practice will be released in all states to reflect these changes. During its development, Safe Work Australia will provide guidance to help businesses and workers understand and comply with the new regulations.

 

Engineered stone FAQ 

What is engineered stone?

Engineered stone is an artificial product that:

  • Contains 1 per cent or more crystalline silica, determined as a weight/weight (w/w) concentration; and
  • Is created by combining natural stone materials with other chemical constituents such as water, resins or pigments; and
  • Becomes hardened.

What’s not included under the definition of “Engineered stone”?

  • Concrete and cement products
  • Bricks, pavers, and other similar blocks
  • Ceramic wall and floor tiles
  • Sintered stone
  • Porcelain products
  • Roof tiles
  • Grout, mortar, and render, and
  • Plasterboard.

Is there a transitional period?

  • ACT, QLD and VIC – No transitional period.
  • NSW, SA, WA, NT and TAS – Transitional period until 31st December 2024.
  • If a contract was entered before 31st December 2023, the work is exempt from the engineered stone prohibition as long as the work is completed by 31st December 2024.

What about already installed engineered stone?

If you need to repair, remove, dispose of or make any minor modifications you must have control measures in place to minimise the dust and you must wear respiratory protection. 

Creating a SWMS in the HazardCo App can help you with selecting the right controls for the task such as using water suppression or on-tool dust extraction, and a minimum P2 dust mask or respirator.

In Victoria you will no longer need a licence to work with engineered stone from 1st July 2024.

There is more information to come on how to deal with already installed engineered stone, for example you might need to inform your state regulator before work begins. 

Are there any alternatives out there?

There are plenty of silica-free options out there to suit every budget such as timber, stainless steel, and laminate options have come a long way, such as these Contact Sheet options from Laminex.   

 

Resource links

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/esban 

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/esban/faq 

https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/frequently-asked-questions-engineered-stone-ban 

Work Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation Ministers’ Meeting – 10 May 2024 – Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, Australian Government (dewr.gov.au)

 

Information correct as of: 19th June 2024

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