Occupational lung diseases

Occupational lung diseases are work-related lung conditions of the respiratory system. Lung diseases can develop rapidly or develop many years after the first exposure to a particular hazard. Some can also lead to cancer.

Pneumoconiosis is lung disease that is caused by breathing in certain types of dust. Some examples of pneumoconiosis are: 

Other occupational lung diseases include:

More information about occupational lung diseases can be found in the report Occupational lung diseases in Australia 2006 - 2019.

Causes of occupational lung diseases

Occupational lung diseases are caused by respiratory hazards. Respiratory hazards can include hazardous dusts, gases, fumes, mists, microorganisms or vapours.

Some of the hazards that can cause occupational lung diseases are:

Workers can be exposed to these hazards during activities such as:

  • construction
  • excavation
  • fabricating, processing, installing, maintaining or removing engineered stone products 
  • tunnelling, quarrying and mining
  • use of inorganic pesticides and herbicides 
  • use of machinery or equipment that generates dust or fumes
  • working with domesticated and wild animals

Prevention of occupational lung diseases

Under the model WHS laws, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has a duty to eliminate or manage the risk of occupational lung diseases by:

A PCBU must organise and pay for health monitoring if there is a significant risk to the health of their workers because of exposure to hazardous chemicals at the workplace. 

PCBUs must also organise and pay for air monitoring to determine the airborne concentration of hazardous chemicals if:

  • they are not certain if you are exceeding the workplace exposure standard, or
  • monitoring is necessary to find out if there is a risk to health.

Air monitoring might be needed to make sure that workers are not exposed to airborne concentrations of a hazardous chemicals above the workplace exposure standard.

Supporting information