SABRE – Surveillance of Australian Workplace Based Respiratory Events

Chief Investigators

Funded by: Australian Lung Foundation

SABRE is a surveillance scheme providing the first comprehensive data on occupational respiratory disease in Victoria and Tasmania. We have also been involved in setting up a similar scheme in NSW with collaborators in Sydney at the Dust Diseases Board.

Registers exist in several overseas countries, for example, the Surveillance of Work-related Occupational Respiratory Disease program (SWORD) in the UK which has been reporting data since 1989.

Occupational lung disease due to respiratory toxins and inhalational injury can cause morbidity, disability and death. There are many known respiratory toxins to which the Australian workforce is exposed. This list is likely to increase with the introduction of new processes and agents. At present the incidence of such diseases is unknown in Australia. The data sources which do exist, eg worker's compensation records, disease registers, hospital discharge data and workplace records, all have serious deficiencies.

Respiratory and occupational physicians regularly report to SABRE whether or not they have seen cases of occupational respiratory disease and almost 644 cases of occupational respiratory disease have been reported. Respiratory physicians have reported the bulk of the cases, with 527 reports. Diagnoses reported are as follows: allergic alveolitis 6, asthma 203, bronchitis 41, infectious disease 8, inhalation injury 33, lung cancer 15, mesothelioma 51, non-malignant pleural disease – predominantly diffuse 24, non-malignant pleural disease – predominantly plaque 153, other 42, pneumoconiosis 66. As expected the most common diagnosis continues to be asthma.