Bunnings to pull engineered stone benchtops after protests on silicosis fears

A range of trendy kitchen benchtops will be pulled from Bunnings shelves in the wake of a damning report about the products links to a fatal disease.

The hardware chain will stop selling engineered stone by December 31 following a Safe Work Australia report which recommended the outright ban on the product to protect another generation of workers from contracting silicosis.

It comes just weeks after members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union members staged protests to challenge Bunnings to stop selling the product.

The silica dust from cutting, grinding and polishing the engineered stone benchtops can lead to silicosis as well as lung cancer.

Silicosis is an incurable and potentially fatal disease and is caused by inhaling tiny particles of silica dust.

Engineered stone benchtops, which have become a feature in many Australian kitchens and bathrooms, contain a high concentration of crystalline silica.

Bunnings director of merchandise, Jen Tucker, said the chain made the decision before their hand was forced by state and federal governments.

“While there has been clear indication from NSW and other state governments that they will legislate a ban on the product, we are proactively making this decision to allow suppliers and customers time to prepare for a transition,” she said.

Ms Tucker said the majority of benchtops sold in Bunnings stores were laminate and timber.

“The decision to adjust our range now will give our suppliers certainty about future sourcing of materials and should mean we’re well positioned to offer a fully-compliant range well ahead of any changes being mandated.”

CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith said he hoped “this is the end of the line for engineered stone”.

“When even a massive corporation that until now has put profits over workers’ lives concedes it’s lost any remaining social licence to sell this killer stone, no government can squib it on a ban,” he said.

Furniture giant Ikea has been encouraged to follow suit.

“All retailers must follow suit immediately. Ikea talks a big game on social responsibility yet lines its shelves with benchtops that kill Australians,” Mr Smith said

State and federal workplace ministers will meet again next month to decide the product’s fate after failing to reach a consensus last month.

If agreed to, Australia will become the first country in the world to ban engineered stone.

The CFMEU has vowed to ban its members from using or importing engineered stone products from July next year if federal and state governments do not act.

“Today all governments and businesses are on notice that Australians will accept nothing less than a total ban on the import, manufacture and use of engineered stone.

“The CFMEU won’t rest until the asbestos of our generation is stopped forever.”

Originally published as Bunnings to pull engineered stone benchtops from shelves after tradie protests