Natural resources and mines minister Anthony Lynham has announced a new three step regime to safeguard the health of coal miners.
The strategy is designed to prevent new cases of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis; identify existing cases early; and provide a safety net for workers with the disease.
Lynham was joined by representatives of unions, employers, and doctors to outline the coordinated action on the re-emergence of black lung.
“Every worker has a right to go to work and return home to their family, safe and healthy,” he said.
“This has not happened for our underground coal workers, and that’s not good enough.”
The three key action areas are:
- Prevention:which includes stricter dust management and regularly publishing dust levels.
- Early detection through better screening:with strong support from the state’s underground coal mine companies and doctors.
“A miner with the first stages of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis may have no symptoms, but should not continue to work in a dusty environment, so the disease doesn’t progress,” Lynham said.
“Early detection through an effective screening program is critical to protecting the current workforce.”
All underground coal mines are offering their workers new checks on current x-rays or fresh x-rays if the x-ray was taken more than two years ago. All new x-rays will be checked twice; by an Australian radiologist and, as an extra measure, by US-based accredited x-ray readers until local radiologists undergo further training to the international standard.
More training will be provided for GPs who conduct the conduct the health assessments coal miners regularly take, with a focus on lung function tests.
Each miner’s medical data will be stored digitally with doctors required to report cases to the government.
Lynham also said he will continue to lobby the Federal Government to create a national screening program that includes retired coal miners.
- Safety net for miners with coal workers’ pneumoconiosis
Miners diagnosed with coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, including those who have retired, can rely on the worker’s compensation safety net, provided by WorkCover Queensland or their employer’s own insurance scheme.
The three step regime follows on from Lynham’s five-point action plan announced in January.
“As I have said previously, increased focus on this issue was always expected to result in further workers being diagnosed,” he said.
“The review checked 257 long-term coal workers’ X-rays, and of those, 18 miners have been recommended to undergo extra tests.
Lynham is further urging coal mine workers who have health concerns to speak to their general practitioner.