Reforms to work health and safety regulations will commence on 1 January to ensure protection of Queensland coal miners from black lung disease.
Mines for Natural Resources and Mines Dr. Anthony Lynham said the new safety regulations would ensure dust levels are made public, compulsory health checks for underground and bove-ground miners conducted, and compulsory reporting of black lung cases to the government.
“These regulatory changes are a critical element of our commitment to detect and prevent all forms of coal mine dust lung disease – including coal workers’ pneumoconiosis,” said Dr. Lynham.
“This is a disease that does not belong in the 21st century and I am determined to continue to work with industry, unions, and doctors to protect our coal miners.”
Under the new regulations, all new coal mine workers will undergo a health assessment, including respiratory function and chest x-ray examinations, on entry into the industry, allowing doctors to detect changes that may occur over time. Above-ground coal miners will also be subjected to a chest x-ray and respiratory function test at least once every 10 years. If they have worked underground, it will be conducted every 5 years.
Companies will also be required to provide dust monitoring data to the Mines Inspectorate every three months. An advisory committee of industry, union and government representatives will review the data and it will be published online.
With the new law, black lung will become a notifiable disease, which means companies are required to report known cases to the Queensland Mines Inspectorate. Coal mine workers retiring permanently can now ask their employer for a retirement examination, including respiratory function and chest x-ray examination.
Chest x-ray examinations will be performed in accordance with International Labour Organisation guidelines.
The new regulations are part of the three-pronged approach announced in July, which aims to prevent new black lung cases, identify existing cases early and provide a safety net for workers with the disease.
“Following the introduction of the dual reading screening system in July 2016, more than 2,000 coal mine worker chest x-rays have been read first by an Australian radiologist, and then sent to be read by US-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approved readers,” said Dr. Lynham.
“This system ensures every worker’s chest x-ray is examined independently by at least two medical experts.
“I encourage any mine worker – past or present – who has concerns about their respiratory health to see their doctor.”
Eighteen Queensland miners have been diagnosed with coal workers’ pneumoconiosis so far.
New health and safety regulations to take effect in January 2017 to protect Queensland coal miners from Black Lung by Haydee. Available from <http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/12/new-health-safety-regulations-take-effect-january-2017-protect-queensland-coal-miners-black-lung/> [09:06pm, Tuesday 20 December, 2016 ]