The state government will back the ban of engineered stone at an upcoming national meeting of the work health and safety ministers, as new data shows one in four workers exposed to silica dust from manufactured stone before 2018 have been diagnosed with silicosis.
The knock-on effects of this ban would move from the fabrication industry to home designers and consumers.
Designer and Port Lincoln resident Fran Huber from Designful Spaces said engineered stone was a highly sought after product for many people who could not afford natural stone or were after a material easy to care for.
“Alternative materials are already on the market, such as porcelain benchtops, acrylic solid surfaces and Lapitec benchtops,” she said.
“If the ban does go ahead then I predict the cost of benchtop materials will increase.
“Suppliers will have to adapt if they want to survive, no doubt companies will develop new products.
Ms Huber said the industry would need to be heavily regulated moving forward as there were still many other building materials and products in use containing silica.
“Stone suppliers have been advocating for years for the industry to be regulated and licensed to mitigate the risk,” she said.
“They also have been improving their products, reducing the silica content to under 40 per cent as a minimum and are advocating for a ban of engineered stone with a silica content of over 40 per cent.”
A SafeWork Australia report last month found there was no scientific evidence for a “safe” threshold of crystalline silica content in engineered stone and recommended a ban on the use of all engineered stone, as well as a licensing scheme for work with engineered stone already installed.
Some retailers, such as Bunnings and IKEA, recently announced they would begin phasing out the sale of engineered stone products in their stores.
South Australian Legislative Council Member Tammy Franks said it took 70 years for Australia to ban all forms of asbestos.
“We cannot continue to expose workers and residents to respirable silica dust when we know that there are no safe levels of exposure,” she said.
“It is pleasing to see SA Labor taking a stand to protect current and future workers.”
Federal, state and territory ministers will meet in December to decide on a response to the SafeWork Australia report.
The state government stated it would support a prohibition on the use of engineered stone at that meeting.