Sunday 17th Jan, 2021

Less dust and more lung checks for Queensland resources workers

A compliance enforcement blitz will target more than 300 high-risk workplaces to prevent the deadly lung disease silicosis.

Slashed mine dust limits and free, mandatory lung health checks are now in place to protect Queensland’s mine and quarry workers.

The mandatory health checks already in place for coal mine workers have been extended to the state’s other 15,000 metalliferous mine and quarry workers.

Coal and silica dust levels, responsible for black lung disease and silicosis, are also set to be reduced.

The allowable limit for respirable coal dust has been cut to 1.5 milligrams per cubic metre from 2.5 and from 1 to 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre for silica dust. This follows a nationwide review by Safework Australia.

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the protections were the latest in a suite of reforms to protect the health and safety of the state’s resources workers.

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“Every Queensland worker has the right to a healthy career and life free of occupational disease,” Lynham said.

“And the most important resource to come off a mine site every day is a worker.

“Queensland now has the toughest mine safety and health laws in the world – including the offence of industrial manslaughter.”

Every metalliferous mine and quarry worker will have a chest X-ray that is read by at least two qualified radiologists as well as a lung function test. This will happen when they start in the industry, at least once every five years during their career in the industry.

When they leave the industry, the workers can continue to have free respiratory health checks for life, if they want to.

The measures provide mineral mine and quarry workers with the same health checks as their 37,000 coal mining counterparts who already have free mandatory respiratory health screening.

The changes complement a suite of sweeping mine safety and health reforms which include:

  • Introducing the offence of industrial manslaughter
  • better detection and prevention of black lung, and other mine dust lung diseases, and an improved safety net for affected workers.
  • $35 million to deliver reforms to improve worker safety and health a
  • increased maximum penalties for offences to $4 million and powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court.
  • statewide safety reset sessions for mine and quarry workers to refocus on health and safety
  • powers to suspend or cancel statutory certificates of competency
  • extra mines inspectors.