WHS Ministers from across the country met on the 28th February to discuss WHS issues of national importance. Front and centre of these discussions has been the national response to silicosis and the potential ban of engineered stone, as previously discussed in our past blog: Silicosis in Construction: A Call for Stronger Protections
Whilst a number of items were discussed which we will detail later, the WHS Ministers of each State and Territory agreed to implement the following Silicosis reforms as a priority:
- Delivery of national awareness and behaviour change initiatives;
- Stronger Regulation of high-risk silica processes across all industries, such as training, air monitoring, reporting of Workplace Exposure Standard exceedances to the Regulators and scoping of new and updated Codes of Practice;
- Conduct analysis and consultation on prohibitions of the use of engineered stone, reflecting the silica content of the stone and potential national licensing scheme for products not covered by the ban.
The Commonwealth is also explore an import ban on engineered stone and will consult the States and Territories on the effects of a ban.
The groundswell of support for the banning of engineered stone has gathered steam significantly in the past couple of weeks, with a coordinated campaign by the CFMEU, AWU and the ACTU calling for the end of its use. Further, coordinated support from leading health bodies to ban the use of engineered stone include the Lung Foundation Australia, Public Health Association Australia, the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand, the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists, the Australian Institute of Health and Safety and The Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine.
The WHS Ministers have set a 6 month deadline for Safe Work Australia to finalise a report on the prohibition.
Other items discussed at the meeting include:
- Adoption of industrial manslaughter into the WHS model laws; including penalties of $18 million for body corporates and 20 years imprisonment for individuals;
- Implementation of psychosocial hazard Regulations in the various States and Territories
- Review of the Model WHS laws
- The National Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033.
Further information regarding the Ministers meeting can be found here: https://www.dewr.gov.au/work-health-and-safety/resources/work-health-and-safety-ministers-meeting-28-february-2023