Aussie radiologists called in fight against black lung

AUSTRALIAN radiologists are being sought to double-check Queensland coal miners’ x-rays in the latest in the suite of Queensland government measures to tackle the re-emergence of black lung disease.
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Lou Caruana

A call for tenders from Australia-based radiology services to do the second check on miners’ compulsory chest X-rays has been announced by Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham.

Since July, Queensland coal miners’ chest x-rays have been checked twice – once by an Australian radiologist and again by US-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health expert.

“The US-based reading has been an interim measure until Australian radiologists have gained the internationally-recognised B-reader qualification,” Lynham said.

“An all-Australian service will now mean faster results, and certainty, for our coal miners.

”The tender closes on May 19, and should be awarded by July, with a transition period until all x-rays being handled in Australia by the end of the year.”

All Queensland coal miners have compulsory chest x-rays before, during, and when they leave the industry. Dual-reading of those x-rays is one element of the three-pronged approach announced in July by government, industry, medical and union representatives to protect coal workers from black lung.

Also as part of the black lung measures, from January 1 this year companies provide dust monitoring data to the Mines Inspectorate every three months for publishing online; black lung is a notifiable disease, meaning mining companies must report known cases to the Queensland Mines Inspectorate; and coal mine workers permanently retiring from the industry can ask their employer for a retirement examination, including respiratory function and chest x-ray. 

Lynham said the tender would be supported by strict conditions on facilities taking the x-rays to ensure staff taking x-rays were suitably trained and qualified.

 “I encourage any mine worker – past or present – who has concerns about their respiratory health to see their doctor,” he said.

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