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Occupational hygiene


  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth) – Item 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7

Contributing to

  • Corporate plan—strategies 1, 2 & 3
  • Operational plan—activities 2 & 3


  • We released a RIS for the workplace exposure standards framework, for public comment.
  • Facilitating a panel discussion on workplace cancers at the AIOH Annual Conference and Exhibition, Melbourne.
  • Development and commencement of the occupational lung disease work plan.
  • We released draft evaluation reports for workplace exposure standards for respirable crystalline silica and respirable coal dust.


  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • WHS regulators
  • Natural resources, mines and energy regulators
  • All levels of government
  • Academics, universities and research institutions
  • Community organisations
  • Educational institutes
  • Employer associations
  • WHS professionals, occupational hygienists and allied professionals
  • Unions
  • Workers’ compensation authorities
  • Journalists
  • Industry and business associations

‘We develop and maintain evidence-based policy that protects workers from exposures that may cause harm’

Workplace exposure standards

Under the model WHS laws, a duty holder must ensure that workers are not exposed to airborne hazardous chemicals above the concentration listed in the workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants. Australia’s workplace exposure standards currently include over 600 hazardous chemicals.

We developed a methodology, published on the Safe Work Australia website in June 2018, to undertake a health-based review of the workplace exposure standards including:

  • sourcing exposure standard information
  • evaluating individual workplace exposure standards and advisory notations, and
  • revising the list of chemicals to better reflect Australian workplaces.

The aim of the health-based review is to make sure the concentrations of the hazardous chemicals listed are supported by the highest quality, most contemporary evidence and supported by a rigorous, scientific approach.

Reviews of respirable coal dust and respirable crystalline silica were conducted as a priority. We received substantial stakeholder feedback following the public release of the draft evaluation reports and recommendations. The other hazardous chemicals will undergo the same process throughout the remainder of 2019 and into 2020.

The health-based review is supported by an investigation into the workplace exposure standards framework as it currently exists under the model WHS laws. We released a business survey and a consultation RIS to collect data on:

  • how workplace exposure standards are used
  • what compliance looks like
  • how much compliance with the workplace exposure standards costs, and
  • what actions small, medium and large businesses might take if the workplace exposure standards changed.

We received very detailed information from business and interested stakeholders that will inform a decision RIS to be released in late 2019.

Occupational lung disease

Occupational lung diseases are conditions of the respiratory system that have occupational exposure as a risk factor for developing the disease. They are a priority condition under the Australian Strategy.

We have implemented an occupational lung diseases work plan that will:

  • raise awareness of the duties and control measures for preventing and managing exposure to dusts that can cause occupational lung disease, and
  • develop a solid evidence base to inform future national policy decisions.

The key activities of the work plan will improve our visibility of national issues surrounding occupational lung diseases, including identifying:

  • high-risk industries, products and tasks
  • workers at greatest risk of exposure, and
  • emerging trends.

We will provide practical information and strategies that can be used at the workplace to reduce the risk of occupational lung diseases. Specifically, the key activities of the work plan include:

  • developing national guidance for working with silica and silica-containing products that will:
    • improve the awareness of duties of a person conducting a business or undertaking
    • convey practical information on how to protect the health and safety of workers who work with, and in the vicinity of, silica dust, and
    • communicate in languages other than English to ensure we reach our target audience
  • developing and supporting education and awareness activities, with a focus on micro and small to medium business to improve compliance with the WHS laws and improve the health and safety of workers
  • undertaking a literature review investigating the advances in airborne dust control technologies and work processes:
    • using this information we will provide practical and targeted advice on the most effective ways to protect workers from airborne dusts
  • conducting further research on the status of occupational lung diseases in Australia to provide a present-day view and estimate the incidence of occupational lung disease, and
  • investigating, collecting and analysing data held by WHS regulators and relevant government agencies that will:
    • support national policy interventions
    • increase our visibility of national issues, and
    • identify emerging trends.

Implementation of the work plan will continue throughout 2019 and 2020.