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Greens Move to Protect Workers from Harmful Silica Dust

A Greens bill to ban any work that would expose people to dangerous crystalline silica dust has successfully proceeded to a parliamentary committee today after receiving support in the Upper House.

The bill proposed by Greens MLC Tammy Franks would amend the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 to put an end to working with manufactured stone, which used in the production of kitchen benchtops and bathroom fittings. When it is cut, ground or polished, it produces silica dust that when inhaled leads to silicosis, a severe and incurable lung disease that may lead to death.

Manufactured stone was first used in Australia in 2001. It is an imported building product from silica aggregate and resin and is most often used in kitchen bench tops and commercial and retailed finishes. According to a 2021 report by the Government's National Dust Disease Taskforce, nearly one in four workers exposed to silica dust from manufactured stone before 2018 have been diagnosed with silicosis.

Quotes attributable to Tammy Franks MLC:

“It took 70 years for Australia to ban all forms of asbestos. We need to learn from that disaster and act to ban artificial stone.”

“Silicosis is already killing workers with young families, affecting people whose entire lives should be ahead of them. If one in four workers in any other industry were being poisoned by their work environment, there would be widespread outrage and demands for action. It should be no different for stone and construction workers.”

“All legislators should be putting the lives of workers above the desire for shiny kitchen benchtops.”

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