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 can occur in various industries, with recent cases related to the manufacture and installation of artificial 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 which 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 lung 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 National Dust Disease Taskforce will develop a national approach to the prevention, early identification, control and management of dust diseases in Australia.
The members of the National Dust Disease Taskforce are:
- Professor Brendan Murphy (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
The Taskforce will provide interim advice by the end of 2019 to the Commonwealth Minister for Health. The Taskforce will provide a final report to the Council of Australian Governments’ Health Council, through the Commonwealth Minister for Health, by no later than December 2020.
National Dust Disease Taskforce Communiques
Communiques of the National Dust Disease Taskforce are published below.
12 September 2019
- National Dust Disease Taskforce Communique from the second meeting on 12 September 2019 - PDF 94 KB
- National Dust Disease Taskforce Communique from the second meeting on 12 September 2019 - Word 144 KB
1 August 2019
- National Dust Disease Taskforce Communique from the first meeting on 1 August 2019 - PDF 68 KB
- National Dust Disease Taskforce Communique from the first meeting on 1 August 2019 - Word 145 KB
The first meeting of the National Dust Disease Taskforce acknowledged the importance of early and effective engagement with the community and the broad range of stakeholders including Governments, industry, unions, regulators, medical practitioners, businesses, employers, employees and co‑workers.
Through an open consultation process the Taskforce seeks to understand the issues associated with the emerging trend of new cases of accelerated silicosis further. A range of consultation activities are being undertaken to inform and support the work of the Taskforce.
The Department of Health, on behalf of the Taskforce, has opened the consultation period with the release of a Consultation Paper, to seek the views and insights of the community and stakeholders. Written submissions and Stakeholder Consultation Forums will inform the Taskforce as it develops advice to governments for a national approach to the prevention, early identification, control and management of occupational dust diseases in Australia.
2019 Written Submissions
Written Submissions for the consultation period are currently open. The consultation period will be open for 8 weeks.
Written submissions are due by Monday, 11 November 2019.
To provide a written submission, please access the Consultation Hub.
2019 Stakeholder Consultation Forums
The Taskforce will soon be undertaking consultation forums around Australia, commencing in October 2019. Below is the consultation schedule including locations and dates.
|October 2019 Consultation Dates|
|Gold Coast||Friday 25 October|
|Melbourne||Monday 28 October|
|Geelong||Wednesday 30 October|
|November 2019 Consultation Dates|
|Sydney||Friday 1 November|
|Brisbane||Monday 4 November|
|Adelaide||Wednesday 6 November|
|Hobart||Friday 8 November|
|Canberra||Monday 11 November|
|Perth||Wednesday 13 November|
|Darwin||Friday 15 November|
To register your interest in attending a forum, please register at the Consultation Hub. Those that have already registered their interest will be contacted directly.
- National Dust Disease Taskforce Terms of Reference - PDF 109 KB
- National Dust Disease Taskforce Terms of Reference - Word 14 KB
Please email the National Dust Disease Taskforce Secretariat should you have any questions about the Taskforce’s work.
To ensure you are kept up to date about the work and progress of the National Dust Disease Taskforce, please subscribe by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email address will then be added to a mailing list to receive any future updates.