Publication of the National Guidance for Doctors Assessing Workers Exposed to Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust
1 March, 2022
The National Guidance for doctors assessing workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust with specific reference to the occupational respiratory diseases associated with engineered stone (the National Guidance) has been finalised and is now available on the Department of Health website. The National Guidance is designed to help GPs and medical practitioners identify and assess people at risk of silicosis caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RSC) dust.
In 2019, the National Dust Disease Taskforce (the Taskforce) was established to develop a national approach to the prevention, early identification, control, and management of occupational dust diseases. The establishment of the Taskforce was in response to the re-emergence over the past decade of silicosis, an entirely preventable occupational respiratory disease that was prevalent in Australia in the 1940s to 1960s.
The re-emergence of silicosis has been mostly driven by the popularity of engineered stone material which has been available in Australia since the early 2000s. Engineered stone is manufactured stone with a high silica content used primarily in Australia for benchtops. Nearly one in four workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust from engineered stone before 2018, have been diagnosed with silicosis.
In its interim advice, the National Dust Disease Taskforce recommended the development of National Guidance to assist medical practitioners identify people at risk from RSC exposure, and improve the quality, frequency and coverage of health screening assessments for current and former workers.
To develop the National Guidance, the Taskforce established the National Guidance Working Group (the Working Group). The Working Group included medical experts from across a range of relevant fields covering respiratory and thoracic medicine, radiology, environmental and occupational medicine, and work health and safety. In developing the National Guidance, the Working Group collaborated extensively with the medical community including a wide range of medical specialists and interested parties. The National Guidance includes the latest research and the best available evidence to support medical practitioners make informed assessments of at-risk workers and provide support to achieve improved health outcomes.
Early this year, the Working Group finalised the National Guidance. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ), the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) have provided endorsement. The National Guidance is currently being considered by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) for approval as a clinical resource.
The Department will regularly review and update the National Guidance documentation to ensure that it remains relevant and reflects the most up to date research and practice.
The National Guidance, along with the Practice Guide and Guidance Summary can be found on the Department of Health website: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-dust-nat-guide-gp.htm
If you would like further information or have any questions about the Taskforce’s work, you can contact the Department of Health Dust Disease Policy and Projects Section at Dust@Health.gov.au