Occupational Dust Diseases

This page contains information on Occupational Dust Diseases.

Page last updated: 04 April 2022

About Dust Diseases

Occupational dust diseases are caused when people breath in dust, fumes, gases, or other hazardous agents in the workplace. Over the past 15 years there has been an unexpected resurgence of silicosis in Australia. Silicosis is a fibrotic lung condition caused by the inhalation of very fine silica dust, known as respirable crystalline silica.

Silica dust exposure has been a well-known occupational hazard in sandblasting, tunnelling and mining among other workplaces for many years. However, many recent cases of silicosis have been linked to the cutting, grinding, and polishing of engineered stone bench tops.

Silicosis is a preventable disease. There is currently no cure.

National Dust Disease Taskforce

In 2019, the Australian Government established the National Dust Disease Taskforce (the Taskforce) to develop a national approach for the prevention, early identification, control, and management of occupational dust diseases in Australia.

Following consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, and consideration of specifically commissioned research, the Taskforce completed its independent review and presented its Final Report to Government in June 2021. The report contains seven recommendations that support a range of regulatory and non-regulatory actions designed to have an impact in the short to medium-term on improving worker health and safety.

The Australian Government provided $5 million in 2019-20 to establish the Taskforce, support the establishment of a National Dust Diseases Registry and fund new research. In the March 2022 Budget, the Australian Government committed a further $11 million to address recommendations from the National Dust Disease Final Report.

The All of Governments’ Response to the Final Report of the National Dust Disease Taskforce (Response) was released on 4 April 2022. The Response provides a strong commitment from the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to reducing incidence of silicosis and other dust diseases among workers, and increase the quality of life for people affected and their families.

Read the full Response:

Read more about the National Dust Disease Taskforce here.

Projects and initiatives

National Guidance

The National Guidance for doctors assessing workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust (with specific reference to the occupational respiratory diseases associated with engineered stone) has been developed to help general practitioners identify and assess people at risk of silicosis caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust.

Find out more: National Guidance for doctors assessing workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust

National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry

A National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry (National Registry) is being established to capture and share data on the incidence of occupational respiratory diseases in Australia. The Registry will record causative exposures and respiratory health data to aid the detection of new and emerging threats to worker’s respiratory health, inform incidence trends, and assist in targeting and monitoring the effectiveness of interventions and prevention strategies.

Find out more: National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry

Research investment into silicosis

The Australian Government committed $6 million through the Medical Research Future Fund and the National Health and Medical Research Council to support five projects under the 2020 Silicosis Research Grant Opportunity.

Find out more: Research investment into silicosis

Further Information

If you have any queries or would like to find out more about the Australian Government’s approach to the prevention, early identification, control and management of occupational dust diseases in Australia, email dust@health.gov.au