The Queensland Government has launched a boosted x-ray screening system, which will see coal miners’ x-rays “double-checked” overseas.
Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the changes, aimed at protecting workers against black lung disease, would kick in this week.
The improved screening and quality assurance system is part of the three-pronged attack Dr Lynham announced earlier this month to tackle the re-emergence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.
“Government, employers, unions and the medical profession have acted quickly to implement plan to deal with this important health issue,” he said.
“Going forward, all coal miners requiring respiratory health assessments will have their chest x-rays checked, and then double-checked, by two medical experts.
“The new screening system will see an Australian radiologist read x-rays to the International Labor Organisation (ILO) standard first.
“In a key change, radiologists will report in the format recognised by the ILO, which provides a rigorous process for reporting on the presence of the disease, and if it is present, describing its stage.
“Initially, digital x-rays will be provided to the US to be checked a second time by an x-ray reader accredited by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“This second check will be established and available within Queensland, as soon as local radiologists are accredited in the ILO system.”
Dr Lynham said the new system would help restore coal miners’ confidence in the screening program, with results back to their doctors usually within a fortnight.
“I urge any coal mine worker who has concerns about their health to talk to their general practitioner,” he said.
The announcement comes on the same day 100 coal miners walked off-site at Glencore’s Oaky Creek coal mine to attend a meeting in Tieri regarding black lung.
Eleven Queensland miners have been diagnosed with coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, with another 18 suspected cases currently being reviewed.
One of the workers diagnosed with black lung was among those at the meeting.
Allan Thomson, 62, told ABC News he still works at Glencore’s Oaky Creek mine on a premanent day shift after being taken off underground duties.
“I think the company doesn’t know what to do with me, I think we’re just test cases and maybe something will come later on,” he told ABC News.
“But I think we’re just in the too hard basket at the moment, they probably don’t know what to do with us.”
Another 18 suspected cases of black lung are currently being reviewed by health experts in the USA.