Understanding work-related disease

Work-related diseases are acute, recurring or chronic health problems that are caused or made worse by work.

Work-related diseases cause suffering for workers, and come at a cost to the community. Research into work-related diseases can help to reduce this suffering and prevent these diseases by raising awareness of how they are caused and reducing exposure to risk factors that people encounter at work.

Exposure to work-related hazards

Workers may be exposed to hazards in the workplace which can cause (or increase the risk of) work‑related diseases. These can include materials like asbestos, dusts, chemicals or radiation.

Sometimes, workers are exposed to these hazards outside the workplace. This makes it hard to research the link between exposure and a work-related disease.

Some work-related diseases take a long time to develop. Many people might not develop a work-related disease until after they have stopped work. 

We publish workplace exposure standards, which set out the legal concentration limit for airborne chemicals that must not be exceeded.  These limits are published in the Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants list.

We also publish a range of other information and guidance on hazardous chemicals.

Research on work-related disease

We conduct research to better understand how many people develop work-related diseases and understand the impacts on people and the community. We also research risk-factors and how these can be reduced at work, to prevent work-related diseases in future.

We conduct research to better understand:

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