Coming together to solve black lung

HOGSBACK realises New South Wales and Queensland can be the biggest of rivals, especially around State of Origin time. However, chief inspectors from the two states joined their colleagues from around the country and New Zealand to tackle the scourge of black lung.
Coming together to solve black lung Coming together to solve black lung Coming together to solve black lung Coming together to solve black lung Coming together to solve black lung

In a meeting recently held in Sydney, the inspectors reviewed and analysed major activities, incidents, and technology from each jurisdiction, providing insight into investigation procedures and better ways to interact with industry. 

It was a valuable opportunity to discuss the various systems and processes used and identify similarities and areas that can be improved.

There was a significant focus on health and working conditions surrounding exposure to dust and silica.

All jurisdictions are increasing the focus on these issues and an awareness of the health implications for workers.

A unified approach to combatting the effects of dust to both underground and surface mining is needed.

While the problem of black lung has traditionally been associated with under coal mine workers in the form of coal workers' pneumoconiosis, the insidious and damaging effects of airborne silica, silicosis, in open cut environments also needs to be addressed.

Queensland is taking great steps forward in combatting the problem and is keen to raise its standards.

Queensland mines minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the state would match national recommended standards expected to be released by Safe Work Australia before the end of the year.

"The simplest way to prevent occupational lung diseases like black lung is to protect our miners from mine dust through the effective use of engineering controls," he said.

The current occupational exposure limit for respirable coal dust is 2.5mg per cubic metre.

Safe Work Australia is proposing this be reduced by 40% to 1.5 mg/cu.m.

This commitment is the latest in a suite of reforms to mine worker health and safety over the past three years by Queensland.

Legislation is before the Queensland Parliament to introduce an independent resources safety and health regulator.

If approved, this could prove to be a valuable model that could be shared and adopted by the coal industry in NSW and other jurisdictions.

While NSW finally managed to wrench the State of Origin from Queensland's grasp in recent years, it might be worth letting go of Blues pride and learning the lessons from Queensland's experience in combatting the damaging effects of dust on miners' health.