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The Government must ban engineered stone to protect workers’ health

We are calling on Minister Brooke van Velden for a total ban on engineered stone to protect workers’ health.

The Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi is once again advancing its call for a total ban on engineered stone in Aotearoa New Zealand. They are urging Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Brooke van Velden to listen to unions, academics, industry leaders, and health and safety experts who all agree that banning this product is crucial.

Australia is set to become the first country in the world to ban engineered stone. From 1 July 2024, Australia is taking engineered stone off the market following its decision to ban importation, manufacturing, and use of the product.

“The evidence of the harm caused by engineered stone is overwhelming. It is clear to us that a ban on this product is the only option,” said CTU President Richard Wagstaff.

“Dubbed the modern-day asbestos, exposure to the silica dust from cutting engineered stone can cause the fatal lung disease silicosis.  

“Workers exposed to this material are developing symptoms at an accelerated rate, and at a much younger age than other occupational respiratory diseases. Silicosis is an incurable disease, but the exposure is preventable. 

“The Australian Government listened to the overwhelming evidence and implemented a total ban. That decision will save workers’ lives.

“The CTU sent a letter to Minister van Velden in December 2023, calling on her to follow the Australian example and ban the importation, manufacturing, and use of engineered stone in New Zealand.  

“The Minister’s silence on this issue demonstrates a lack of concern for the health of working people. This needs to be addressed urgently.

“The Minister has the power to eliminate this hazard and save lives. Instead of prioritising the removal of Fair Pay Agreements and extending trial periods, the Minister should focus on making work better and remove engineered stone.

“Engineered stone is a fashion product, and other options are available. It’s not worth the life-altering damage to workers, and their whānau, to keep this material in the market,” said Mr Wagstaff.