QLD Government takes tougher stance on black lung prevention

From January 1 2017 current measures to protect coal mine workers from black lung will become regulations required by law, in a move by the Queensland Government to combat the disease.

Natural resources and mines minister Anthony Lynham told parliament yesterday that elements of the state government’s plant to protect coal miners were now part of the coal mining safety and health regulation; enforcing stricter rules over dust management, reporting, and medical assessments for workers.

“Government, employers, and unions are tackling the re-emergence of this disease on three fronts – through prevention, early detection, and a safety net for workers,” Lynham said.

This comes after Australia’s first confirmed case of black lung was recorded in an open cut mine worker, sparking concern throughout the industry.

“So far, industry and governments have been assuming this problem is isolated to underground mines – we now know this is a false assumption,” Stephen Smyth, CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland district president, said.

The changes for coal mining companies include regularly reporting dust monitoring results to the Mines Inspectorate – for underground longwall and development operations at least every three months; informing inspectors each time dust concentrations exceed prescribed levels; reporting known cases of occupational lung diseases, including black lung, to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM); and giving respiratory function and chest x-rays for retiring coal mine workers at their request.

There have also been changes to health assessments for miners which include having new underground and above-ground coal mine workers undertake a chest x-ray when they enter the coal mine industry; and having above-ground coal mine workers undertake respiratory function and chest x-ray examinations at least once every 10 years.

Current employees who are or have worked in an underground coal mine are to have respiratory function and chest x-ray examinations at least once every five years and

respiratory function tests undertaken as part of health assessments are to be compared to a worker’s previous results where available.

Additionally, all chest x-rays must be conducted according to International Labour Organisation guidelines under the regulation changes.

Earlier this year the state government appointed a six-person Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis select committee designed to investigate the resurgence of black lung in the state, with hearings to begin tomorrow.