“It’s clear the state’s current safety checks are not up to scratch,” Minns said.
“Every day that goes by without reform is another day NSW workers lives are put at risk.
“There must be a complete ban on manufactured stone, coupled with urgent reform of SafeWork NSW now, which Labor will deliver.”
The joint investigation trawled through thousands of pages of documents that revealed SafeWork NSW had fallen short of protecting workers. In the past two years, it received dozens of tip-offs and complaints about silicosis-related breaches in workplaces. In some cases, it told the offending companies when it would come and inspect worksites.
On other occasions, it wrote to the offending company to inform it that it wasn’t going to send out an inspector.
The documents included numerous examples of companies breaching safety rules over and over again, including the company stonemason Dinh Tran worked for. It received repeated improvement notices from 2018, but the light-touch regulation did little to improve worker conditions.
Tran was diagnosed with silicosis in 2021 and in August last year was given eight months to live.
Sophie Costis, the NSW Labor spokesperson for work and safety, said it was unacceptable for the regulator to send letters in response to serious incidents rather than inspectors.
“NSW Labor will reform the current inspecting rules to protect our state’s workers,” she said.
Besides banning products containing more than 40 per cent silica, a mandatory registration and license scheme would be rolled out for all sites where engineered stone is fabricated. This would include all companies working with engineered stone registering with SafeWork NSW, and fabricators being required to register their workers.
“The NSW parliament has had four reviews highlighting the urgency of dealing with silicosis, yet the NSW Liberals have done nothing,” said Labor treasury spokesperson Daniel Mookhey.
The NSW Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello, agreed earlier this week that more must be done, but stopped short of endorsing a ban.
“As it stands, an importation ban can only be implemented by the federal government,” he said. He also said the national discussion on whether or not there should be a ban should be brought forward from 2024, as is currently proposed.
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