Advocacy to Delay the Silica Benchtops Ban
18 October 2023
I wondered why the NSW Government was delaying the ban on silica-containing benchtops until July 2024. Infectious diseases have no political friends, but industrial diseases do. Below is a full page ad in today’s Sydney Morning Herald advocating a delay on the ban and some regulations about how to cut the benchtops with no dust. They also point out correctly that other benchtop materials have some hazards, and there are a lot of other products that produce silica dust when cut or dug. And they point out that a lot of people are involved in installing benchtops.
It is true about other products being harmful. But it is also true that there are readily available non-toxic alternatives that could be used. It is a bit rich for an industry that did precious little to stop the development of silicosis now to ask to be regulated. The obvious solution is to minimise the harm from all sources of silica including cutting concrete and digging sandstone foundations. That requires regulations that often actually exist, but Safework does few site inspections and relies on ‘self regulation’ and a ‘notify us’ system of light regulation, based on a fundamental contempt for OHS as soon as it inconveniences business.
The government must be forced by publix pressure to ban silica benchtops, which are basically all silica except for a bit of binder chemical, and to enforce other regulations with filtered air and barriers with PPE (personal protective equipment) as a last resort. Concrete or sandstone must be cut with water on the saw so that there is minimal dust.
It is depressing, but not surprising that those who have created so much of a problem by setting up an import system for this toxic product now have the gall to lobby against effective government action.
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