Prevention of the Occupational Silicosis Epidemic in Australia: What Do Those Who Assess Workplace Health Risk Think Should Be Done Now?


An Australian National Dust Disease Taskforce was established to address the re-emergence of occupational lung disease, in particular silicosis. Exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) occurs in various industries in Australia. We asked occupational hygienists about their practical experiences and perspectives on RCS exposure and regulatory action. A total of 105 members of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists completed an anonymous questionnaire, which addressed individual characteristics, experience, perceived level of employer awareness, effectiveness of current regulation, and recommendations for improvement, across three main industrial sectors. Based on professional experience, 71% were concerned about the potential for RCS over-exposure. Barriers to adequate exposure control included lack of management commitment and financial resources. The employment of specialist occupational hygiene inspectors was considered to be the most effective regulatory strategy. Given the large number of exposed workers in the construction industry, with only a moderate awareness, there is the potential for significant cost shifting of the burden of occupational lung disease from employers on to individuals and the public health system. A nationally consistent approach to RCS exposure control across all industrial sectors is now recommended, with an increased focus on measuring and controlling exposure.

Authors: Kate Cole, Deborah Glass, Tracey Bence, Dino Pisaniello, Peter Knott, Shelley Rowett, Sharann Johnson
; Full Source: Annals of work exposures and health 2022 Sep 16;wxac064. doi: 10.1093/annweh/wxac064.