Release date: 14 December 2023

Hailed as the stone ‘devoid of imperfections’, it has a not-so-secret danger – releasing fine silica dust when cut, most commonly in the making of kitchen benches and bathroom vanities. This dust when inhaled can cause silicosis, an irreversible lung condition that can result in death. 

Today, the future health of 32,000 stonemasons lays in the balance as the state ministers for Workplace Health and Safety meet to talk about the future of engineered stone.1 

Travis Schultz, Managing Partner at Travis Schultz & Partners (TSP) joins Safe Work Australia and union representatives in calling for engineered stone to be prohibited in light of the dangers of exposure to silica and increasing reports of injury. 

“The Government needs to act now to ban the use of high silica engineered stone.” 

“Banning the product will no doubt have financial consequences for the corporations who have manufactured it, and there remains a risk of some of those corporations becoming insolvent. But the human cost is just too high to continue allowing the manufacturers to profit at the significant personal expense of those who have to work with it,” Mr Schultz said. 

“We’ve seen from the James Hardie example how corporations can behave when it turns out that their product causes fatal conditions and is a huge cost to the community. Too often we see corporate restructures to avoid financial responsibility for their defective products which shifts the financial cost of its consequences to the public purse.” 

With workers’ compensation claims on the rise, Mr Schultz adds that there is a need to have a conversation about ways to support workers who are diagnosed with silicosis. 

“Worker safety in such a high-risk environment must come first for employers. And manufacturers of defective products must meet their responsibilities rather than leaving the taxpayers to pick up the bill through our workers’ compensation and public health systems.” 

 Where prevention measures have failed workers and injury is suffered as a result of their exposure to silica, Mr Schultz adds “The reality is that the compensation available might compensate for the ongoing medical bills for physical and psychological injuries as well as loss of income, but what price do you put on a life?” 

“Government legislation is urgently required to ensure that corporations responsible for the silicosis plague set up a fund to provide real compensation to the victims, including future victims. The very nature of the condition is that it might be many years before workers even become aware of their contraction of silicosis.” 

“The victims of this grave corporate misjudgment deserve fair compensation.”