Dust management, Hazardous materials, News, Underground operations, Work health and safety

Coal mines to face tighter air quality restrictions

Australia’s coal mines will soon face more stringent restrictions on air quality after a review released by Safe Work Australia.

According to Safe Work Australia, the workplace exposure standard (WES) for coal dust has been reduced from 3 mg/m3 (milligram per cubic metre) to 1.5 mg/m3.

All Australian workplaces must keep carbon dioxide levels below 5000 parts per million, however coal companies have historically held an exception that allows levels to be 12,500 inside mines.

“Following independent expert review, the evaluation report for carbon dioxide did not recommend a separate workplace exposure standard for coal mines as there is no available health information to support this approach,” Safe Work Australia said in a statement to The Australian Financial Review (AFR).

“Instead, a single workplace exposure standard … was recommended.”

A spokeswoman said the recommendation would come into effect later in the year.

Major miner BHP told the AFR that the company is happy to implement tighter dust restrictions.

“We supported the recommended change to 5000ppm through Safe Work Australia’s public feedback process in early 2021,” BHP said.

“As with any proposed regulatory change, we will review and assess Safe Work Australia’s recommendations when they are released.”

The Queensland Government implemented similar control measures in May this year in an effort to control silica dust.

Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace announced that the State Government has accepted all 31 recommendations from an independent review into the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

“The Queensland Government will never shy away from standing up for workers and taking action that will keep Queenslanders safe,” Grace said.

“While legislative reviews and reform can be complex processes, they are absolutely necessary to give us the in-depth insights and advice we need to strengthen laws to protect Queensland workers.

“One of the key findings from Work Health and Safety Act review was the need for more education on the rights of worker health and safety representatives (HSRs), so we will clarify and enhance the existing frameworks and support the reduction of unnecessary disputes.”

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