NSW to increase surveillance over coal industry

New South Wales plans to implement an independent review of health surveillance in the coal sector due to the re-emergence of dust diseases across other mining jurisdictions in Australia.

The move has been recommended by mining companies, government, unions and independent experts through the state’s ministerially appointed council, the Mine Safety Advisory Council (MSAC).

MSAC chair George Souris said that New South Wales wanted to stay on the front foot to ensure the state’s coal workers continued to have the best possible protections.

“We don’t want to wait until something goes wrong in (New South Wales) to act and this quality assurance review will focus on the coal industry health surveillance scheme to ensure it is continuing to provide robust and effective health surveillance for coal workers,” Souris said.

“The review will also provide assurance to the industry that the health surveillance system in (New South Wales) is effective in the early identification of health conditions that may affect workers and recommend any necessary changes to improve the scheme.”

The scheme includes Australia’s “most rigorous” coal dust exposure limits, monitoring of airborne contaminants and prescribed health monitoring regimes for workers exposed to airborne dust.

“Coal mine workers receive periodic health surveillance every three years,” New South Wales Resources Regulator director Anthony Keon said.

“Outside of the placement, medical assessments are undertaken for all coal mine workers prior to commencing employment and ongoing assessments are offered to workers after they leave the industry.

“However, the recent re-emergence of dust diseases, particularly in neighbouring mining jurisdictions shows that we cannot rest on our laurels and we must continue to be vigilant and review the way we do things to ensure (New South Wales) mine workers continue to have the best protections possible.”

The New South Wales Government is looking for a suitable service provider to undertake the review.

Other recommendations previously recommended by MSAC included the bringing forward of the state’s reduced coal dust limits by nearly two years.

The New South Wales coal dust respirable standard is now 1.5 milligrams per cubic metre, effective since February.

This is a reduction from 2.5 milligrams per cubic metre, a limit that had been in place since 2004.

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