State regulators urge action on engineered stone alternatives

With the upcoming ban on engineered stone products, WorkSafe Victoria urged businesses and consumers with contractual obligations that cannot be legally fulfilled after the ban comes into force to discuss a suitable substitute and settle any disputes in good faith.

Under the prohibition, employers will no longer be permitted to carry out work involving the manufacturing, supply, processing or installation of engineered stone benchtops, panels and slabs from 1 July 2023.

The regulator said there would be no transitional period, which means that engineered stone benchtops, panels or slabs cannot be installed in Victorian premises after the ban commences, even if a contract was entered into before 1 July.

Engineered stone products installed prior to 1 July do not pose an ongoing health and safety risk to Victorian consumers and are not affected by the prohibition.

To ensure any work on these existing installations is managed safely, an exception to Victoria’s prohibition will apply to the removal, repair or modification of engineered stone benchtops, panels or slabs installed in a premises before 1 July.

This work will not be licenced or require notification to WorkSafe, but must comply with existing control requirements for engineered stone and robust regulations for high-risk crystalline silica work.

“While the removal of engineered stone is generally low risk in comparison to installation, demolishers and other practitioners working with existing installations need to be mindful of their obligations,” said Victorian Building Authority’s Commissioner and CEO Anna Cronin.

“This includes complying with current regulations to keep their workers and clients safe by minimising the health risks associated with crystalline silica dust.”

Any exemptions to the national prohibition granted by other jurisdictions under exceptional circumstances will not be automatically applied in Victoria, which will use its existing exemption framework under the OHS regulations.

This will ensure products defined as engineered stone can only be considered for use in Victoria where there is compelling evidence that they provide the equivalent level of health and safety to the alternative of not using them.

Any attempt to rebrand engineered stone as another product to intentionally avoid the prohibition will be subject to strong compliance and enforcement action.

Duty holders must still comply with Victoria’s current regulations, including the requirement for all businesses working with engineered stone to be licensed, until the prohibition takes effect on 1 July.