Dust management, Hazardous materials, News

Miners urged to retest for lung disease after medical audit

lung, silicosis

Coal mine workers are being urged to retest for lung disease after an audit discovered substandard medical screening from a Queensland practice.

Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RSHQ) has been campaigning across the state to ensure the quality of spirometry tests, which are used to detect lung disease.

As part of the campaign, RSHQ is auditing medical providers. After the substandard testing was identified, the practice received a six month ban.

According to the regulator, the audit revealed 30 per cent of the provider’s spirometry tests were unacceptable and did not meet minimum quality standards. This left 135 workers impacted by the poor testing.

The RSHQ audit found the spirometry practice failed to:

  • conduct the tests effectively
  • identify issues in the test results
  • maintain accurate comments which led to incorrect test interpretation
  • repeat tests multiple times to the same level as required.

RSHQ director of health strategy and compliance Patrick Jensen said the regulator had begun the process of contacting the coal mine workers impacted by the audit findings, as well as the workers’ employers and doctors.

“We’re recommending all those affected workers undertake repeat spirometry tests,” Jensen said.

“While we always work with medical providers to improve screening quality through education and advice, we don’t shy away from taking appropriate regulatory action where necessary to protect workers’ health and safety.”

Jensen said that ResHealth, a online platform where health assessments under the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme must be completed, played an important role in identifying the substandard screening.

“The operation of ResHealth, the mandatory digital system for the completion of health assessments, assisted in ensuring the quality of medical examinations,” he said.

“ResHealth provides a centralised point for health assessment records, which has made the analysis of disease data easier and better allows us to conduct timely assessments of medical screening.

“The re-identification of black lung disease in Queensland in 2015 highlighted the importance of ensuring medical screening is of a high standard and the consequences when this isn’t the case.”

Subscribe to Safe to Work for the safety news that matters most to the Australian mining industry.

Send this to a friend