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Tighter laws to protect coal miners against black lung

Old and worn colorful construction helmets

Tighter rules to protect Queensland miners from coal workers pneumoconiosis will officially kick in from January 1.

Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham told Parliament last week that elements of the Palaszczuk Government’s plan to protect coal miners were now part of the coal mining safety and health regulation.

“We are tightening the rules around dust management, reporting and medical assessments for coal mine workers,” he said.

“From 1 January 2017 a number of measures that are practically already in place will become regulations, which means they will be required by law.

“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.

These changes will require coal mining companies to:

  • regularly report dust monitoring results to the Mines Inspectorate – for underground longwall and development operations, at least every 3 months.
  • advise inspectors every time dust concentrations exceed prescribed levels.
  • report known cases of certain occupational lung diseases, including coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM).
  • provide respiratory function and chest x-ray examinations for retiring coal mine workers at their request.

Regulated changes to health assessments for miners include:

  • new underground and above-ground coal mine workers to undergo a chest x-ray when they enter the coal mining industry.
  • above-ground coal mine workers to have 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 to have respiratory function and chest x-ray examinations at least once every five years.
  • respiratory function examinations undertaken as part of health assessments to be compared to a worker’s previous results where available.
  • chest x-ray examinations to be performed in accordance with International Labour Organisation guidelines.

Dr Lynham told Parliament that he had requested prompt advice from his Coal Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee on any further action that may need to be taken following the recent confirmation of the first aboveground coal miner worker with black lung.

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