National Dust Disease Taskforce

The Australian Government has established a 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.

Page last updated: 14 July 2021

National Dust Disease Taskforce Final Report

The National Dust Disease Taskforce (Taskforce) has completed its independent review of the systems in place for the prevention, early identification, control and management of accelerated silicosis from engineered stone, and broader occupational dust diseases.

The Final Report has been developed following extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, and consideration of specifically commissioned research.

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 Taskforce focused its review on accelerated silicosis and engineered stone but recognised the need for broader actions on dust diseases.

The report has been presented to Government for its consideration and response.

Background

Parts of Australia have observed an emerging trend of new cases of accelerated silicosis, a preventable occupational lung disease occurring in workers as a result of exposure to silica dust. This exposure can occur in various industries. However, there have been many recent cases related to the manufacture and installation of engineered stone bench tops, in particular in Queensland.

Silicosis is caused by inhalation of very fine silica dust. Silica exposure has been a well-known occupational hazard in sandblasting, tunnelling and mining among other workplaces for many years. At present there is no known treatment that will arrest the progression of the disease. Some workers may eventually need a lung transplant.

The Australian Government has committed $5 million to support the Taskforce and related measures. These include establishing a National Dust Diseases Register, and new research to support understanding, prevention and treatment of preventable occupational dust diseases.

Establishment of the National Dust Disease Taskforce

On 26 July 2019, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, announced the establishment of the National Dust Disease Taskforce and released its Terms of Reference.

The Taskforce will develop a national approach to the prevention, early identification, control and management of occupational dust diseases in Australia.

The members of the National Dust Disease Taskforce are:

  • Professor Paul Kelly (Chair)
  • Ms Sophie Dwyer (Deputy Chair)
  • Ms Clare Amies
  • Ms Michelle Baxter
  • Professor Fraser Brims
  • Dr Graeme Edwards
  • Dr Ryan Hoy
  • Professor Christine Jenkins
  • Dr Richard Slaughter

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the delivery of the final report of the Taskforce will be extended by six months. The Taskforce will now provide a final report to the Commonwealth Minister for Health, by 30 June 2021.

Consultation Processes

The Taskforce acknowledged the importance of consultation and effective engagement with the community and the broad range of stakeholders. The Taskforce ran 3 rounds of consultation. More information on the Consultation Processes and publically available submissions, can be located on the here.

Communiques

The Taskforce published Communiques after each of their meetings to formally update stakeholders on Taskforce progress. All Communiques can be accessed here.

National Dust Disease Taskforce Interim Advice

The Taskforce provided its Interim Advice on the prevention, early identification, control and management of occupational dust diseases in Australia, particularly accelerated silicosis, to the Commonwealth Minister for Health at the end of 2019.

Research investment into silicosis

Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF)

The successful applicants of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) – Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research – 2020 Silicosis Research Grant Opportunity were announced on 11 May 2021. The five grant recipients are outlined in the table below

*NHMRC are co-funding $1 million of the $6 million total for silicosis research.

MRFF Initiative Grant Opportunity Funded Institution Project Name Chief Investigator/s Total funding
Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research 2020 Silicosis Research The University of Queensland Silicosis – Harnessing new ideas to conquer the re-emergence of an ancient lung disease – The SHIELD Study Professor Daniel Chambers $2,216,631
Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research 2020 Silicosis Research University of Sydney Transforming diagnosis of silicosis: a novel AI approach Professor Patrick Brennan $1,481,686
Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research 2020 Silicosis Research Monash University The NLRP3 inflammasome as a potential biomarker and therapeutic target for silicosis Associate Professor Michelle Tate $645,764
Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research 2020 Silicosis Research University of Tasmania The role of particle size in the pathogenesis of engineered stone-associated accelerated silicosis Professor Graeme Zosky $665,843
Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research 2020 Silicosis Research Monash University Emerging techniques for earlier diagnosis and assessment of severity and progression of artificial stone silicosis   $994,642*
Total         $6,004,565

Key Documents

Contact information

If you would like further information or have any questions about the Taskforce’s work, you can contact the Department of Health by:

Further Information

To ensure you are kept up to date about the work and progress of the Taskforce, please subscribe by emailing dust@health.gov.au. Your email address will then be added to a mailing list to receive any future updates.