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Hardware chain Bunnings will stop selling engineered stone at the end of the year, in a major victory for unions and health experts campaigning for a ban on the silicosis-causing material.
Bunnings director of merchandise Jen Tucker said the decision to withdraw its limited range of engineered stone benchtops from December 31 was made following the recent release of Safe Work Australia’s landmark report and consultation with suppliers.
Hardware chain Bunnings will stop selling engineered stone by the end of the year.
“While there has been clear indication from NSW and other state governments that they will legislate a ban on the product, we are proactively making this decision to allow suppliers and customers time to prepare for a transition,” she said in a statement.
Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union federal secretary Zach Smith congratulated the retailer on the move, which comes after his members staged protests at stores urging Bunnings to stop its sale.
“This is the end of the line for engineered stone,” Smith said.
“When even a massive corporation … concedes it’s lost any remaining social licence to sell this killer stone, no government can squib it on a ban.”
He challenged furniture chain IKEA to follow suit.
“All retailers must follow suit immediately. IKEA talks a big game on social responsibility yet lines its shelves with benchtops that kill Australians,” he said.
Federal, state and territory ministers will meet next month to discuss a national ban on the engineered stone to stop an epidemic of stonemasons contracting lung disease silicosis. Unions and health experts say there is no safe level of exposure to the crystalline silica dust generated from cutting the material.
“Today all governments and businesses are on notice that Australians will accept nothing less than a total ban on the import, manufacture and use of engineered stone,” Smith said.
Workplace health and safety ministers from NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory have backed a blanket ban, while the remaining state and territories are yet to reveal their positions.
Last month, Safe Work Australia published its report that found no level of crystalline silica would keep tradies safe, after major manufacturers called for the product to be allowed at silica thresholds as low as 10 per cent.
Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke started discussions of a nationwide ban after an investigation by this masthead and 60 Minutes revealed a growing number of workers were battling the debilitating symptoms of silicosis while regulators failed to effectively police workplaces.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said earlier this month the state was prepared to go it alone in announcing a ban if a national agreement could not be reached by the end of the year.
Tucker said the majority of benchtops sold in Bunnings stores were laminate and timber, and it was well progressed with sourcing other alternatives to engineered stone.
“The decision to adjust our range now will give our suppliers certainty about future sourcing of materials and should mean we’re well positioned to offer a fully compliant range well ahead of any changes being mandated,” she said.
More to come
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