On Friday Safe Work Australia (SWA) released the Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on engineered stone ban. The Decision RIS

  •  Recommends as its preferred option, prohibition of the use of all engineered stone and a licensing scheme for certain work on engineered stone previously installed.
  • Reports that there is no scientific evidence for a ‘safe’ threshold of crystalline silica content in engineered stone; a view  consistent with our own  AIOH submission to SWA Consultation on the prohibition on the use of engineered stone .
  • Explains why other options are not preferred and provides details of how SWA has also considered the economic and compliance aspects of this issue.
  • Reflects the findings of independent scientists from University of Adelaide and the University of Tasmania who have been looking at the many different types of engineered stone, generating dust and evaluating various aspects of the material and exposure science from their own research and in the peer-reviewed literature .

Whilst we await WHS ministers decision on any prohibition of all engineered stone, I am providing the following reflections for AIOH members.

  • Hygienists rarely advocate for a ban. Decisions to completely eliminate a hazard are rarely afforded to workplace health and safety professionals and a prohibition of a hazardous material on this scale has not been seen in the working career of many of us. In our 2022 AIOH survey, a high degree of member concern for silica exposures in engineered stone sector was reported and published as Prevention of the Occupational Silicosis Epidemic in Australia: What Do Those Who Assess Workplace Health Risk Think Should Be Done Now?   In our 2023 Annual Member Survey a high degree of support for AIOH Council action on silicosis prevention was also reported. Still, it is understood that not all consumers, policy makers or hygienists are in favour of a ban and some are unsure.
  • Hygienists’ role is to protect workers from harm. The AIOH Rules and Statement of Purpose reminds me that as an AIOH member I am expected to ‘give paramount consideration to the safeguarding of the health of the workforce’. So, if there is any perceived bias in AIOH support of a ban, it comes from this singular purpose and primary responsibility to workers, who we know are experiencing disproportionate silicosis at a rate of 1 in 4 ( Hoy et al, 2023).  Pleasingly over the many years the AIOH has worked alongside AIHS, TSANZ, the Cancer Council, the ACTU, Public Health Association and the Lung Foundation of Australia and we are aligned in our view that engineered stone dust creates unique and unacceptably high exposure scenarios for these workers and the  SWA recommendation will save lives.
  • Hygienists are being heard. I specifically commend our esteemed AIOH members Kate Cole OAM (COH, MAIOH), Jane Whitelaw (CIH, COH, FAIOH) and Maggie Davidson (MAIOH) who have raised the profile of our profession and championed the need to control workplace exposures in recent media interviews. Now is a great time for AIOH members to talk to colleagues, friends and family about what occupational hygiene is and how what we do can make workplaces safer .

The Decision RIS on Engineered Stone is now with WHS Ministers as will be the decision to adopt any lowered Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL).

AIOH members now face new and unusual challenges in our practice. These may include how to advise on engineered stone controls now we know its toxic effects are so different from RCS in other settings.

And more broadly, we will be challenged on how to measure and assess airborne contaminants at lowered WEL concentrations. To help you, the AIOH Exposure Standards Committee will be releasing new technical guidance on Minimising Uncertainties When Sampling and Analysing Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) and a revised Position Paper on RCS and its Health Effects.


Stay tuned for future updates .

Thank you & regards.

Tracey Bence


AIOH 2023 President