Regulator urges dust health checks for coal mine workers

Current and former coal mine workers are being urged to have regular health checks following an investigation into a former coal mine worker diagnosed with a mixed dust disease in 2017.

An investigation conducted by the NSW Resources Regulator revealed the worker, (known as ‘Worker Y’), was historically exposed to dusty underground environments at a number of coal mines over a long period of time.

Acting Deputy Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer Anthony Keon said Worker Y’s medical condition can’t be attributed to specific exposure or specific sites.

Mr. Keon said no enforcement action can be taken in this case – but it underlines both the need for all current and former coal mine workers to get regular checks and the importance of the stringent regime put in place in NSW.

“Our approach is a combination of the most rigorous coal dust exposure limits in Australia; legislated requirements for achieving minimum standards of ventilation; monitoring of airborne contaminants in the worker environment; and prescribed worker health monitoring regimes for exposure to airborne dust,” he said.

“Coal mine workers receive periodic health surveillance every three years. Medical assessments are also undertaken for all coal mine workers prior to commencing employment and assessments are offered to workers when they leave the industry.”

Mr Keon said the NSW regime is underpinned by a strict compliance and enforcement approach.

“Over the past 12 months the Resources Regulator has undertaken 68 targeted assessments and planned inspections at NSW coal mines as part of a major compliance campaign to ensure mines have appropriate dust control measures in place to minimise exposure risks to workers.

“The regime is working – inspection and mandatory testing shows nearly all NSW coal mines have reduced exposure levels to well below the prescribed allowable limits. Cases such as Worker Y demonstrate the scheme’s effectiveness in identifying legacy issues and ensuring early intervention and appropriate care,” he said.

Current and former coal mine workers can contact Coal Services Health on 02 6571 9900 to arrange a medical if they have concerns about their respiratory health.

The investigation report can be accessed here.

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