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Caesarstone benchtops: the future of engineered stone and australia's ban

11th Feb '24 • By Jared Jeffery

In 2023, the Australian Commonwealth, state, and territory government workplace ministers unanimously agreed to implement a national ban on engineered stone from July 1, 2024.

This landmark decision stems from the alarming risks posed to workers, with the prevalence of silicosis, a severe lung disease, driving the urgent need for action.

Here's what you need to know about the decision, and how it will affect well-known engineered stone brands like Caesarstone in 2024 and beyond.


Article Summary

  • The Rise of Engineered Stone
  • Understanding the Ban
  • Protecting Workers
  • Implications for Imported Products
  • Looking Ahead
  • FAQs

The Rise of Engineered Stone

Engineered stone benchtops have surged in popularity in recent years, offering a cost-effective alternative to natural marble. With attributes like scratch resistance and low porosity, it's been a favoured choice for high-traffic areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. However, beneath its sleek surface lies a hidden danger – the risk of silicosis.

Understanding the Ban

Effective from July 1, 2024, the ban encompasses all aspects of working with engineered stone, including manufacturing, supplying, processing, and installation. Major retailers like Bunnings, IKEA, and Mitre 10 pledged to remove engineered stone products from their shelves by the end of 2023, signalling a definitive shift away from the material. Safe Work Australia has commended this decision, emphasising its potential to save lives.

Protecting Workers

While the ban spells the end of new installations involving engineered stone, existing projects will continue under strict guidelines. Safe Work Australia advocates for controlled working environments, which include the use of protective equipment, wet cutting systems, dust extraction, and adequate ventilation. These measures aim to minimise silica dust exposure and safeguard the health of workers.

Implications for Imported Products

Concerns extend beyond domestically manufactured engineered stone, prompting discussions about the regulation of imported variants. Regardless of origin, the fine dust generated during fabrication poses a significant health risk. The federal government has indicated plans to address imported products.

Looking Ahead

As Australia grapples with the ramifications of the engineered stone ban, attention shifts towards alternative materials and improved safety practices. The decision underscores the imperative of prioritising worker safety in all facets of industry, even as it prompts adjustments and adaptations within the construction and design sectors.

Caesarstone has announced it's planning to transition its existing design collection to a new crystalline silica-free formulation, honouring the same ease of fabrication and functional performance of its previous materials. 

The ban on engineered stone marks a significant milestone in Australia's ongoing commitment to occupational health and safety. By prioritising the well-being of workers and addressing the dangers posed by silica dust, authorities are taking proactive steps to mitigate risks and protect lives. As the nation navigates this transition, collaboration between government agencies, industry stakeholders, and the public will be vital in shaping a safer, more sustainable future for all.

To get more info about selecting the safest benchtop material for your home, get in touch with local stone masons today.

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1. What is Silicosis?

Silicosis, caused by inhaling crystalline silica dust, poses a grave threat to respiratory health. Once considered rare, its prevalence has surged in tandem with the popularity of engineered stone. Long-term exposure can lead to lung cancer and other debilitating conditions, prompting comparisons to the asbestos crisis.

2. What are the best alternatives to engineered stone?

Several alternatives to engineered stone exist, offering a range of aesthetic options while minimising health risks associated with silica dust exposure. Here are some popular alternatives:

1. Natural Stone:

  • Granite: Known for its durability and unique patterns, granite is a natural stone that adds elegance to any space. It's available in various colours and finishes, making it suitable for a wide range of design preferences.
  • Marble: Renowned for its luxurious appearance, marble offers timeless beauty and sophistication. While it may require more maintenance compared to other options, its veining and color variations can create stunning focal points in kitchens and bathrooms.

2. Solid Surface:

  • Acrylic or Polyester Solid Surface: Solid surface countertops are non-porous and resistant to stains, making them a practical choice for high-traffic areas. They offer seamless integration of sinks and backsplashes and come in a multitude of colours and patterns.
  • Quartzite: Often confused with engineered quartz, quartzite is a natural stone known for its durability and resemblance to marble. It's less prone to etching and scratching compared to marble and can withstand heat, making it suitable for kitchen countertops.

3. Ceramic Tile:

  • Ceramic or Porcelain Tile: Available in a wide array of colours, patterns, and sizes, ceramic and porcelain tiles offer versatility and durability. They are resistant to heat, stains, and scratches, making them ideal for kitchen countertops. Additionally, they are relatively affordable and easy to maintain.

4. Wood:

  • Butcher Block: Wood countertops, such as butcher block, lend warmth and character to kitchens and bathrooms. They provide a natural, organic feel and are suitable for food preparation areas. However, wood requires regular sealing and maintenance to prevent staining and water damage.

5. Concrete:

  • Concrete Countertops: Customisable and durable, concrete countertops offer a modern aesthetic with endless design possibilities. They can be tinted, stamped, or stained to achieve various colours and textures, and they are heat and scratch-resistant when properly sealed.

6. Stainless Steel:

  • Stainless Steel Countertops: Popular in commercial kitchens for their durability and hygiene, stainless steel countertops are gaining traction in residential settings. They are non-porous, easy to clean, and resistant to heat and stains, making them an excellent choice for modern kitchens.

7. Recycled Glass:

  • Recycled Glass Countertops: Eco-friendly and visually striking, recycled glass countertops feature glass chips or shards embedded in resin or concrete. They come in a wide range of colors and textures and are durable, heat-resistant, and easy to maintain.

3. What are the advantages of natural stone vs engineered stone?

  • Unique Aesthetic: Natural stone offers distinct variations in colour, pattern, and veining, providing each slab with a one-of-a-kind appearance.

  • Durability: Natural stone, like granite and quartzite, is highly resistant to scratches, heat, and stains when properly sealed and maintained.

  • Heat Resistance: Granite and quartzite are naturally heat-resistant, making them ideal for kitchen countertops as they can withstand exposure to hot pots and pans without damage.

  • Increased Home Value: The use of natural stone, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms, can significantly enhance a home's value due to its timeless elegance and durability.

  • Environmentally Friendly: Natural stone is quarried with minimal processing, making it an environmentally sustainable option that can be recycled or repurposed after use.

  • Longevity: With proper care, natural stone countertops can last a lifetime, retaining their beauty and functionality for decades.

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