Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 07, 2024


Parliamentary Committees

Parliamentary Committee on Occupational Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation: Report into the Referral of the Work Health and Safety (Crystalline Silica Dust) Amendment Bill

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (16:47): I move:

That the report of the committee, entitled 'Report into the Referral of the Work Health and Safety (Crystalline Silica Dust) Amendment Bill', be noted.

On 15 June 2022, the Hon. Tammy Franks introduced a bill into the Legislative Council to amend the Work Health and Safety Act 2012. The bill would insert a new part 2A, section 34A and 34B, into the act to define crystalline silica and subsequently ban all work exposing a person to crystalline silica dust. On 1 December 2022, and pursuant to section 16(1)(a) of the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991, the Legislative Council resolved to withdraw the Work Health and Safety (Crystalline Silica Dust) Amendment Bill and refer it to the Parliamentary Committee on Occupational Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation for inquiry and report

The committee's inquiries into the crystalline silica dust amendment bill was referred in response to the rise in accelerated silicosis cases in Australia. During its deliberations on this matter, the committee received 13 written submissions and heard from four witnesses. Witnesses who appeared before the committee included SafeWork SA, the Master Builders Association, SA Unions and Cosentino, a multinational manufacturer of engineered stone products to the Australian market.

The submissions were comprehensive and detailed and provided a range of opinions and suggested recommendations in relation to the proposed amendment bill. I thank all those who contributed to the inquiry through written submissions and by appearing before the committee. Throughout its inquiry, the committee examined the benefits, opportunities and challenges experienced by stakeholders, relating to the bill's proposal to ban work exposing a person to crystalline silica dust.

The committee concluded that the primary purpose of the bill brought by the Hon. Ms Franks was to address the issues associated with respirable crystalline silica in the manufacture, processing, manipulation and use of engineered stone in a construction and home renovation setting after Safe Work Australia found that engineered stone workers are dramatically over-represented amongst workers diagnosed with silicosis.

Whilst the content of submissions received varied, the committee noted that every submission acknowledged the risks associated with exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust. There was also wide support for a national approach to regulation and enforcement. The committee also relied on the decision regulation impact report provided by Safe Work Australia, titled 'Decision Regulation Impact Statement: Prohibition on the use of engineered stone', which was published on 16 August 2023.

The report made several recommendations and ultimately determined that there is no scientific evidence to determine a safe threshold of crystalline silica in engineered stone and advocated for a prohibition on all engineered stone products. The committee has made one recommendation for the consideration of the state government: supporting a continuing collaborative approach to the issue by working towards a national framework of legislation and accompanying regulations regarding the use of engineered stone.

I thank all those who gave their time to assist the committee with this inquiry. I commend the Chair of the committee, the member for Newland, and other members of the committee, the member for Colton, the member for King, and the Hon. Heidi Girolamo MLC, for their contributions in this report. In particular, I acknowledge the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC for her work on the committee and for bringing this important issue before the parliament in the form of proposed legislation. I would also take the opportunity to thank the committee's parliamentary staff, Mr Shane Hilton, Ms Jessica Watson and Ms Tonia Coulter, for their assistance throughout.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. L.A. Henderson.