Coal mine workers to undertake dust health checks

The New South Wales Resources Regulator is urging current and former coal mine workers to maintain regular health screening.

Its message came out after investigating a former coal mine worker who was diagnosed with a mixed dust disease in 2017.

The investigation showed the worker (termed ‘Worker Y’) was historically exposed to dusty underground environments at a number of coal mines over a long period of time.

Worker Y’s medical condition can’t be attributed to specific exposure or specific sites, and no enforcement action can be taken in this case, according to acting deputy secretary and chief compliance officer Anthony Keon.

The worker’s case, however, underlines the need for all current and former coal mine workers to get regular checks and the importance of NSW’s stringent regime.

This system appears to be working, with nearly all NSW coal mines having reduced their exposure levels to well below the prescribed allowable limits.

“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,” Keon said.

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

The Resources Regulator has undertaken 68 targeted assessments and planned inspections at New South Wales coal mines over the past 12 months, ensuring mines have appropriate dust control measures in place.

“Prevention and education is the key – mine operators must have strong dust elimination and mitigation controls in place, workers should wear personal protective equipment when required and continue to attend for their health surveillance medicals even after they leave the industry,” Coal Services managing director Lucy Flemming concluded.