Queensland Laws respond to Black Lung Resurgence

Queensland Laws respond to Black Lung Resurgence

Published on:17th January,2017   Category: Law Updates

Cases of Black Lung disease (technically known as Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis or CWP) have risen significantly in Queensland in the past year.

Between May 2015 to December 2016 there have been around 18 confirmed cases of Black Lung disease in Queensland.[1]   Prior to May 2015 there had been no cases reported to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines for almost thirty years.[2]

Black Lung disease is caused by years of exposure to coal dust and workers in the Queensland coal mining industry are at risk.  Black Lung disease can develop into more serious and fatal respiratory conditions for which there is no cure.  It generally takes years for this condition to develop (around 10 years of exposure to coal dust).

Australia has been in the grip of a mining boom that started in around 2005.[3]  That boom is now easing, however, Queensland mines were responsible for the export of over 216 million tonnes of coal in 2014-2015.[4]

There have been concerns that Queensland coal mine worker health has been neglected.  In response to these concerns the Queensland government instigated an independent review into the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme.

As a result of the review and consultations, the Queensland government has amended the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2001 (Qld).  The new regulations take effect from 1 January 2017.

Amendments to the regulations will now require increased monitoring and reporting of coal dust levels.    The changes also require coal mine workers to have chest x-rays and respiratory function tests at more regular intervals.  For example, the changes make the following mandatory as part of health assessments:-

  • Above ground coal mine workers must, at least once every 10 years, undergo respiratory function tests and chest x-rays;
  • Below ground coal mine workers must, at least once every 5 years, undergo respiratory function tests and chest x-rays; and
  • Prior to starting employment as a coal mine worker, a person must undergo respiratory function tests and chest x-rays.

There are also new provisions which require a health assessment to be done if requested by a coal mine worker who is retiring.   This only applies to workers who have worked in a coal mine for longer than three years.

If you need expert legal advice in relation to health and safety obligations, your rights at work or compensation, contact one of our expert lawyers today.

 

 


[1] https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industry/mining/safety-health/mining-safety-health/medicals/pneumoconiosis

[2] Mining Safety and Health Legislation (Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis and Other Matters) Amendment Regulation 2016  – Explanatory Notes.

[3] Reserve Bank of Australia Bulletin, March Quarter 2010, “Mining Booms and the Australian Economy” (Ric Battellino) (page 67).

[4] https://www.business.qld.gov.au/invest/investing-queenslands-industries/mining/resources-potential/mineral-resources/coal-resources

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