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Urgent action needed to safeguard workers from engineered stone

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions is urging the Government to protect working people who are being exposed to hazardous material in engineered stone.

Engineered stone, a fixture of many homes in New Zealand, poses significant health risks for workers who manufacture the material.

NZCTU President Richard Wagstaff said workers across multiple industries are facing unnecessary risks associated with hazardous exposure to silica and other dust.

“Evidence from New Zealand and abroad shows that working with engineered stone is exposing workers to dangerous levels of silica dust and is causing terminal illnesses such as lung cancer, silicosis and other autoimmune diseases.

“These life-threatening conditions are preventable if proper action is taken.”

Evidence shows that current measures in place to keep workers safe are inadequate. Warnings from health and safety regulator WorkSafe have not resulted in improvement.

“There is a need for strong and swift regulatory action to properly protect workers, including moving towards a ban on the material, as Australia is currently doing,” said Wagstaff.

“Unions and industry in Australia have successfully worked together to champion efforts to strengthen measures which its Government is now acting upon. We are welcoming a similar effort here – supporting Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) in their call for urgent action.

“We need to act now to stop or face another epidemic of size, scale and impact of that caused by asbestos.”