Black lung case confirmed in NSW

A NSW coal mine worker has been diagnosed with coal worker’s pneumoconiosis (CWP), or black lung, the first confirmed case in the state since the 1970s.

The former mine worker had worked in a number of open cut mines in the state before leaving the industry in 2014.

NSW Resources Regulator chief compliance officer Lee Shearer said although the disease has not been identified in NSW for a number of decades, “one case of pneumoconiosis is one case too many”.

“The priority is to ensure the worker is getting the best possible level of support and care,” she said.

The Resources Regulator’s Major Investigation Unit is investigating the incident to determine whether there were any breaches of work health and safety laws.

Lucy Flemming, managing director and CEO of Coal Services, said the state has a strict regime to protect coal mine workers.

“Our approach is a combination of the most rigorous coal dust exposure limits in Australia, legislated requirements for achieving minimum standards of ventilation, monitoring of airborne contaminants in the worker environment and prescribed worker health monitoring regimes for exposure to airborne dust.

“Workers receive periodic health surveillance every three years. Outside of the placement, medical assessments are undertaken for all coal mine workers prior to commencing employment and ongoing assessments are offered to workers after they leave the industry.

“Workers’ health is the absolute priority and this latest news only serves to demonstrate the utmost importance of such strict regulations.”

Shearer added that CWP is preventable through dust control, atmospheric monitoring and worker monitoring measures at mine sites.

Flemming also emphasised the importance of constant health surveillance for all current and former NSW coal mine workers.

“Prevention and education is the key – mine operators must have strong dust elimination and mitigation controls in place, workers should wear personal protective equipment and attend medicals even after they leave the industry,” she said.

The first confirmed case of black lung from an open cut coal mine occurred in October last year, affecting a 55 year old Queensland man.

There have been 16 confirmed cases of black lung in Queensland.