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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.

For more details, visit the review and Queensland Department of Natural Resources

The Queensland Government has released a black lung action plan in the wake of the re-emergence of the disease.

“We have confirmed five cases of coalminer’s pneumoconiosis [black lung disease] in Queensland and I have asked for Queensland Health data on any other possible cases,” said Dr Anthony Lynham, Minister for Natural Resources and Mines and Acting Minister for Health, in a media statement.

The Minister says the plan involves the following:

  • reviewing current screening measures where coalminers have chest X-rays when they start work, at least every five years and when they retire
  • taking action against coalmines that exceed regulated dust limits
  • improving data collection on cases of black lung to prevent cases from being missed
  • investigating regulatory changes, and
  • placing the issue on the national council of mining ministers’ agenda.

For more details, visit the Government’s plan

Published on 28 January 2016 in the NSCA Foundation Safe-T-Bulletin enewsletter – available free every fortnight direct to your email. Subscribe online today


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