Tester recently penned a letter to David Weissman at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the oversight agency for mining health and safety research.
NIOSH is currently working to update its equipment standards for black lung screenings across the US that may phase out film X-rays in favor of digital exams.
The Coal Workers' Health Surveillance program, administered by NIOSH, sought comment on the proposal earlier this year but has not since announced any outcomes from that open forum.
“The current standards specify requirements that permit the use of film-based radiography systems only; proposed amendments would retain those standards (with minor modifications that reflect more commonly used terms) and add a parallel set of standards to specify requirements that would permit the use of digital radiography systems,” NIOSH said in its January documentation.
“An additional proposed amendment would require coal mine operators to provide NIOSH with employee rosters to assist the program in improving participation by miners.”
Tester said despite precautions, black lung continued to be a serious occupational health risk for coal workers and was urging quick adoption of the proposal.
“We owe it to these workers to educate them effectively about ways to reduce their occupational risks, provide proper and timely medical examinations and assist them in filing and pursuing black lung claims,” he told Weissman.
“There are providers in Montana ready and eager to become certified screeners but who no longer have film radiography devices.
“Your prompt action to amend the specifications to allow for the use of digital radiography can provide immediate access to appropriate screening and follow-up for those hard-working coal miners with black lung disease.”