You may have seen that Channel 9’s reality television program ‘The Block’ featured contestants installing Cosentino manufactured stone benchtops in all their kitchens and laundries.
All contain crystalline silica.
As HSRs will be aware, exposure to dust from cutting, grinding, and scraping engineered stone leads to silicosis and lung cancer. That’s why the ACTU, CFMEU, Victorian Government and others are supporting a complete ban on engineered stone products.
Problematically, The Block claimed Cosentino stone is safe and uses ‘low-silica technology’ with host, Scott Cam, declaring is has a silica content ‘like occurs in beach sand – so it’s very safe.’
The problem is there’s no credible evidence indicating there’s any such thing as a safe level of silica exposure. Even low silica engineered stone represents unmanageable risks during fabrication and cutting and thus should be prohibited. New research indicates that when engineered stone is processed ultrafine particles are produced and these along with volatile organic compounds, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and metals may contribute to the type of accelerated silicosis seen in engineered stone workers.
The ACTU subsequently released a statement saying:
‘TV shows like The Block should be warning consumers that the product they are purchasing has come at the expense of workers lives.’
When engineered stone is ground, polished, drilled etc the size of the silica dust particles is very small. These penetrate deep into the lung.
Problematically the company responded their product is not engineered stone, relying on WorkSafe Victoria regulations that require more than 40% silica content to meet the definition of ‘engineered stone.’
That Victorian definition was arrived at, as an interim, when 40% silica content was well below any engineered stone on market. Manufacturers have since developed new low-silica content engineered stone meaning that employers who work solely with engineered stone below 40% silica content avoid needing to be licensed.
This is a known gap in the Victorian legislation that VTHC and other unions have raised with WorkSafe, however focus remains on a national push to ban engineered stone outright.
View Media Watch's coverage, 'Unions push back over The Block’s promotion of engineered stone benchtops'