A National Dust Disease Taskforce that includes three respiratory physicians will start work next month to develop a national approach to managing the re-emerging epidemic of workplace silicosis.
Announced on 26 July by Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, who will also act as chair, the Taskforce has been convened by the government to address the emerging phenomenon of accelerated silicosis in stonemasons due to exposure to silica dust.
Members of the eight person taskforce include respiratory physicians Professor Christine Jenkins, Dr Ryan Hoy and Associate Professor Fraser Brims, as well as occupational medicine specialist Dr Graeme Edwards, the RACP spokesman on the issue who has led the push for a National Dust Diseases Register.
The Taskforce will provide interim advice by the end of 2019 to the Federal Minister for Health and produce a final report to the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) Health Council by December 2020.
According to the Department of Health, the Taskforce will begin its work in August 2019 with a range of consultation activities.
Its terms of reference state that the Taskforce “will inform a national approach by undertaking an independent review of the systems in place to protect Australians who are at risk from occupational dust disease.”
This will include providing advice on opportunities for improvement across the system to ensure protection of at risk populations. and “consideration of the establishment of a National Dust Disease register, including its scope and outcomes to be achieved”.
Professor Jenkins is Head of the Respiratory Group at The George Institute for Global Health; Senior Staff Specialist in Thoracic Medicine at Concord Hospital, Sydney; Clinical Professor and Head of Respiratory Discipline at University of Sydney; and Professor of Respiratory Medicine at UNSW Sydney.
Dr Ryan Hoy is a Respiratory and Sleep Physician at Monash University, Melbourne and a Research Fellow at the Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health.
Associate Professor Fraser Brims is a Consultant Respiratory Physician at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth, Deputy Director of the Institute for Respiratory Health and Chairs the Western Australian Mesothelioma Registry.