Boosting black lung protections

A BOOSTED x-ray screening system with international checks starts this week in Queensland.
Boosting black lung protections Boosting black lung protections Boosting black lung protections Boosting black lung protections Boosting black lung protections

 

Noel Dyson

It is part of a regime to protect the health of the state’s underground coal miners.

Queensland Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the changes included double-checks by US-based accredited x-ray readers.

It is part of a three-pronged attack to tackle the re-emergence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, colloquially known as black lung.

“Government, employers, unions and the medical profession have acted quickly to implement the plan to deal with this important health issue,” Lynham said.

“Going forward all coal miners requiring respiratory health assessments will have their chest x-rays checked and then double-checked by two medical experts.

“The new screening system will see an Australian radiologist read x-rays to the International Labor Organisation standard first.

“In a key change, radiologists will report in the format recognised by the ILO, which provides a rigorous process for reporting on the presence of the disease and, if it is present, describing its stage.

“Initially digital x-rays will be provided to the US to be checked a second time by an x-ray reader accredited by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“The second check will be established and available within Queensland as soon as local radiologists are accredited in the ILO system.

“These measures have been developed based on feedback from key stakeholders together with local and international medical experts to ensure the quality of medical assessments and health care provided to mine workers is second to none.”

Lynham said the system should help restore coal miners’ confidence in the screening program with results back to their doctors usually within a fortnight.

So far 11 Queensland miners have been diagnose with black lung, which is caused by long-term exposure to high concentrations of coal dust.

The three-pronged approach aims to:

  • prevent new cases of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis
  • identify existing cases early
  • provide a safety net for workers with the disease.

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