Action on National Dust Disease Taskforce interim advice

The Morrison Government is acting to accept all five recommendations from the interim advice of the National Dust Disease Taskforce.

There is 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, in parts of Australia.

This can occur in various industries, with recent cases related to the manufacture and installation of artificial stone bench tops, largely throughout Queensland.

At present, there is no known treatment to stop the progression of the disease.

Some workers may eventually need a lung transplant.

That is why the Morrison Government established the National Dust Disease Taskforce on 26 July 2019 following an election commitment to do so.

The Taskforce, chaired by the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, is tasked with developing a national approach to the prevention, early identification, control and management of occupational dust diseases in Australia.

This Taskforce’s interim advice has identified early steps that can be taken by governments to address the issues identified to date, these include:

  1. Developing a targeted education and communication campaign to raise awareness of the risks of working with engineered stone.
  2. Ongoing staged development of a national dust disease registry, with specific data requirements recommended by the Taskforce.
  3. Targeted investment in key research activities, to improve understanding of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Developing national guidance on screening workers working with engineered stone.
  5. Development of a national approach to identify occupational silica dust exposure and other future occupational diseases.

These recommendations will require action and collaboration between Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, and I have written to State and Territory Health Minister’s to seek their ongoing support and collaboration.

These actions will be implemented progressively in 2020 in parallel to the Taskforce finalising its report.

A final report will be delivered to the Council of Australian Governments’ Health Council by the end of 2020.

In establishing the taskforce in 2019, the Morrison Government committed $5 million to support the work of the taskforce including funding for new research to better understand, prevent and treat preventable occupational lung diseases.

This included, $3.5 million through the Medical Research Future Fund for silicosis research over two years from 2020-21, through an open competitive grant opportunity to support silicosis research prioritised by the National Dust Disease Taskforce.

The National Health and Medical Research Council will also provide an additional $1 million to co-fund this research.

Through consultation forums around Australia, the taskforce sought submissions from the community and a broad range of stakeholders.

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