• The air you breathe when working on a farm can contain dusts. 

Agricultural workers can be exposed through:

  • dust generated during harvesting or in the stockyard 
  • transporting grain
  • weed/pest control, and
  • working in areas that contain mould. 

Being exposed to some of these hazards can cause occupational lung diseases. These diseases can develop rapidly, or many years after the first exposure to a particular hazard. Some can also lead to cancer. Occupational lung diseases are a risk in the agriculture industry due to the potential for exposure to respiratory hazards.

Types of occupational lung diseases include:

  • work-related asthma
  • pneumoconiosis (a lung disease caused by breathing in certain types of dust, for example cotton dust)
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and
  • chronic bronchitis
  • Q fever (a bacterial disease that passes from animals to humans and can spread by breathing in infected air or dust)
  • Legionella longbeachae disease (which spreads via soil or potting mix).
PCBUs: Workers:
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you have a duty to keep yourself, your workers and your workplace safe from dusts. You must eliminate or minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Your PCBU has a duty to keep you and your workplace safe from dusts. You also have a duty to take reasonable care of your safety and that of others in the workplace.

Implementing the right control measures can eliminate or manage your exposure to dust and protect your lungs.

Some of the ways you can manage the risks are:

  • substituting dusty products for granular or liquid formulations
  • ensuring adequate ventilation; and use controls to minimise the amount of dust in the air - such as on-tool dust extraction, local exhaust ventilation, or wet-cutting methods
  • using machinery or vehicles that have an enclosed cabin, and 
  • using appropriate personal protective equipment, including respiratory protective equipment.  

Workplace exposure standards may apply to dusts generated from some products. Please see the chemicals page for more information. 

See Part 3.2, Division 7 of the model WHS Regulations for more information.

For more information:

  • Did you know

    The WHS regulator in your state or territory can provide practical advice, resources and tools to help you be safe when working in agriculture. They can also let you know which WHS laws apply to you.