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: 20 November 2020

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 Council of Australian Governments’ Health Council, through the Commonwealth Minister for Health, by 30 June 2021.

Consultation Process

The first meeting of the 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.

First Phase of Consultation - 2019

The Taskforce sought written submissions and conducted consultation forums around Australia throughout October and November 2019 to seek the views and insights of the community and stakeholders. Information collected through this process informed the development of the Taskforce’s Interim Advice which was released by the Minister for Health in January 2020. (Refer below for further information).

The Department of Health is unable to publish submissions without consent. Submissions made on a confidential basis have not been published.

Publically available Written Submissions can be accessed here.

Second Phase of Consultation - 2020

The Taskforce’s second phase of consultation closed on Wednesday, 11 November 2020. The Taskforce sought advice and feedback from stakeholders on the Taskforce’s Interim Advice to inform the development of its Final Report.

Written submissions where consent is provided, will be published by the end of December 2020.

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

The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) open grant opportunity of $4.5 million research investment into silicosis opened on 2 September 2020. The grant closes on 11 November 2020.

For further information please contact the NHMRC Research Help Centre:

National Dust Disease Taskforce Communiques

Communiques of the National Dust Disease Taskforce are published below.

12 August 2020

29 November 2019

12 September 2019

1 August 2019

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.