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Underground health checks compulsory in NSW

THE New South Wales Coal Industry Act has been amended to ensure health checks will now be compulsory for all underground coal miners and to secure standards ahead of a proposed 2011 mine safety legislative reform process.

Lou Caruana
Underground health checks compulsory in NSW

NSW Minister for Primary Industries Steve Whan said he approved amendments to Orders No. 41 and 42 under the Coal Industry Act 2001 – covering health surveillance and dust monitoring – to ensure that “black lung” does not return to NSW mines.

“Health checks on miners will now be compulsory, to prevent development of black lung disease, which has been virtually eradicated in New South Wales coal mines,” he said.

The second order focuses on dust monitoring.

While Coal Services, which is owned by the CFMEU and the NSW Minerals Council, was the sole operator carrying out dust monitoring in coal mines, new operators are now also carrying out monitoring.

AECOM (Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations & Maintenance) was granted a licence for dust sampling and analysis work last year.

“Coal Services will retain responsibility to collect data on dust monitoring so that an across the board approach is maintained once again to ensure the integrity of coal mine safety standards in New South Wales,” Whan said.

Coal Services chairman Ron Land said the company congratulates the minister on approving the orders, which are critical to the health and protection of NSW mine workers.

Order No. 41 covers health surveillance requirements for NSW coal workers and regulates both pre-placement medicals and periodic health assessments.

The order also sets minimum qualifications for health professionals conducting medical assessments and establishes minimum guidelines for medical assessments.

It requires all medical data to be reported for inclusion in the Coal Services database and ensures that coal mine employees are provided with appropriate time to attend medicals.

Order No. 42 covers the monitoring of airborne dust at mining operations in NSW.

The order has been introduced for the continued protection of coal mine workers’ health by retaining current legislated dust monitoring standards and current monitoring practices.

Under the order, monitoring airborne dust involves the frequent collection and analysis of samples of airborne dust from the breathing zone of mine workers at coal mine operations whose health may be affected by the dust.

Coal Services will immediately deploy the resources required across New South Wales for the full implementation of the new orders.

“With the introduction of Order No. 41, it is now a legal requirement for any person looking to work on a coal mine operation in New South Wales to undergo an entry medical before commencing work,” Land said.

“They will now also need to undergo a periodic health assessment too. This is clearly for everyone’s benefit, for the employee or contractor and for the mine operator.”

Land said that in safety-critical roles such as those within the fire brigades, police and ambulance there are industry standards.

“Given the safety-critical nature of the coal mining industry, it is only appropriate that there is a similar approach to health and medical standards. In this regard, Order No. 41 moves the coal industry into line with other safety-critical industries,” he said.

“The new legislation goes to the very heart of maintaining Australia’s world leadership in this important aspect of work safety within the mining sector.”

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