The Morrison Government will invest $5 million to establish a National Dust Diseases Taskforce to develop a national approach for the prevention, early identification, control and management of dust diseases in Australia.
The funding will also establish a National Dust Diseases Register, commission new research to support understanding, prevention and treatment of preventable occupational lung diseases.
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, in particular in Queensland.
Silicosis is caused by inhalation of very fine silica dust.
In the last six months in Queensland alone, over 100 stonemasons have been diagnosed with the preventable lung disease and one reported death associated with accelerated silicosis March this year in Queensland.
Members of the Taskforce will be drawn from the medical community, industry, researchers and Government, and be chaired by an eminent medical expert. The objectives of the Taskforce will be to identify ways to:
- reduce the incidence and severity of dust diseases;
- ensure availability of effective treatment;
- reduce exposure through improved prevention, awareness and capacity building;
- eliminate hazards through better machinery and workplace design;
- ensure appropriate control of potentially hazardous materials;
- achieve better work health and safety outcomes through improved regulation and compliance;
- review the latest research into dust diseases and identify research gaps.
The Taskforce will report to the COAG Health Council, under the direction of the Minister for Health.
The taskforce will commence in July 2019 and will provide a final report by 31 December 2020.