Two new miners with dust disease in NSW

TWO new cases of dust disease have been detected in New South Wales as the industry seeks to halt the spread of “black lung” disease in Queensland.
Two new miners with dust disease in NSW Two new miners with dust disease in NSW Two new miners with dust disease in NSW Two new miners with dust disease in NSW Two new miners with dust disease in NSW

Lou Caruana

One case relates to a worker who has been diagnosed with mixed dust pneumoconiosis. The worker spent much of his career in the NSW coal industry, mostly underground, but has not worked in a production-related role since 2004.

The other case relates to a worker diagnosed with a confirmed case of simple silicosis. The worker is employed at a NSW mine, however, has also worked extensively in the mining and tunnelling industries both interstate and overseas.

The Resources Regulator chief compliance officer Anthony Keon said both workers were detected through health surveillance screening, which was provided to all current and retired coal workers as part of the NSW regulatory framework.

“Ensuring the appropriate management of airborne contaminants has been a key priority for the Resources Regulator and the detection of two confirmed cases of dust diseases is of significant concern,” Keon said.

“The priority is to ensure these workers are getting the best possible level of support and care – and ensuring airborne containments are actively being controlled throughout the NSW mining industry.”

Keon said the Resources Regulator’s Major Investigation Unit was investigating each case and will look closely to see if there were breaches of the work health and safety laws.

“We want to reduce the chances of dust disease occurring in the future and this investigation may help us determine learnings to further strengthen our regulatory framework to prevent these types of cases developing,” he said.

NSW has a comprehensive regulatory scheme in place under the Resources Regulator, the industry body Coal Services and specific health and safety legislation for coal mining.

It has a long-standing tripartite approach to addressing health and safety issues, led by the NSW Mine Safety Advisory Council, a ministerially appointed council with representation from government, mining industry employers, unions and independent experts. 

The council has also established an airborne contaminants sub-committee to look at issues involving dust.

Coal workers pneumoconiosis and silicosis are preventable diseases if appropriate dust control, atmospheric monitoring and worker monitoring measures are in place at mines.

The NSW collaborative model focuses on delivering prevention, detection, enforcement and education strategies that are essential to protect workers in the NSW coal industry from harm in the future. 

Controlling dust exposure, monitoring and ongoing health surveillance are vital components of prevention and detection strategies in place and enforced in NSW.

Coal Services is working with both workers to provide them with care and support, and also working with the Resources Regulator on these two matters.