Black lung overhaul vital
Queensland coal workers’ respiratory health screening requires a major overhaul, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The Queensland Department of Natural Resources ordered a review of the respiratory component of the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme after the scheme failed to identify coal workers with early signs of black lung disease (coal workers’ pneumoconiosis).
The review’s final report identifies a number of screening failures, including a lack of clinical guidelines to inform the diagnosis and management of coal dust lung disease and a lack of industry-wide health surveillance data to help inform coal mine dust exposure control measures.
The final report notes that correctly identifying and treating miners with respiratory diseases is vital, but coal dust control and respiratory disease prevention must be the first line of defence.
Black lung disease was thought to have been eradicated decades ago. But 11 cases of the disease have been identified in the Queensland coal industry since May 2015, and the review suspects 18 more long-term coal miners may have the disease.