The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union wants a 10¢ a tonne levy on Queensland's coal production, which could raise more than $20 million a year for victim compensation.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President Stephen Smyth said after the first open cut coal black lung victim was reported this week that workers and communities in all states and territories with underground and open cut coal mines were at risk.
“This should put all governments on notice – black lung disease is not just a threat to coal miners working in underground mines in Queensland, but to miners at all coalmines across Australia,” he said.
“This also underlines the importance of an industry levy to support a victims’ fund given the national significance of the issue.”
Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines DrAnthony Lynham told Parliament yesterday that he had requested prompt advice from his Coal Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee on any further action that might need to be taken following the recent confirmation of the first aboveground coal miner worker with black lung.
He said elements of the government’s plan to protect coal miners were part of the coal mining safety and health regulation.
“We are tightening the rules around dust management, reporting and medical assessments for coal mine workers,” Lynham said.
“From January 1 2017 a number of measures that are practically already in place will become regulations, which means they will be required by law.
“Government, employers and unions are tackling the re-emergence of this disease on three fronts – through prevention, early detection and a safety net for workers.”
These changes will require coal mining companies to regularly report dust monitoring results to the Mines Inspectorate – for underground longwall and development operations, at least every three months.
Coal mining companies will also have to advise inspectors every time dust concentrations exceed prescribed levels and report known cases of certain occupational lung diseases, including coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
They will also have to provide respiratory function and chest x-ray examinations for retiring coal mine workers at their request.
Regulated changes to health assessments for miners include will require all underground and surface coal miners to undergo a chest x-ray when they enter the industry and surface coal mine workers to have respiratory function and chest x-ray examinations at least once every 10 years.
Employees who are or have worked in an underground coal mine are to have respiratory function and chest x-ray examinations at least once every five years and respiratory function examinations undertaken as part of health assessments are to be compared to a worker’s previous results where available.
Lynham said chest x-ray examinations were to be performed in accordance with International Labour Organisation guidelines.