Preventing harm from occupational disease

Back to the February 2023 News Update

Megan Downie

Dr Megan Downie
Director Occupational Diseases and Hygiene Policy

Every day, workers in Australia are exposed to hazards that can cause occupational diseases. Sadly, people still die from preventable diseases caused by work, and many suffer from debilitating illness. 

Work-related respiratory illnesses have a particularly large and concerning impact on workers, their families and communities. Conditions like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and coal workers’ pneumoconiosis continue to impact workers across the country. In recent years we have also seen the re-emergence of silicosis, with devastating consequences. 

My team has been working on how we, as policy people, can reduce the unacceptable incidence of occupational lung diseases among Australian workers.  While significant work has been done in the past few years, we need to maintain the momentum. 

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033 puts a clear focus on this issue, with a commitment to reduce work-related injury and illness underpinning the whole Strategy. The focus on occupational disease is reflected through the specific and clear targets of no new cases of accelerated silicosis, and a 20 per cent reduction in the rate of work related respiratory disease, by 2033. 

Including these targets in the Strategy demonstrates the commitment of all stakeholders to making real change over the next decade. Addressing and reducing occupational disease will require action in many areas - research and data gathering, education and awareness, embedding good WHS practice, regulation and compliance, and will only occur with effective consultation and collaboration. I’m excited by how this new Strategy focuses all of those involved in WHS in Australia on preventing harm from occupational disease, helping achieve our vision of safe and healthy work for all.

Go to the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033.