The release of the final report into the re-emergence of coal worker pneumoconiosis confirms that a health screening system thought to protect underground coal workers has failed.
The Queensland Government’s Mines Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham, released the government’s response and plan following the review of the Coal Mine Workers' Health Scheme, which was headed by Monash University's Professor Malcolm Sim.
Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche said the final report was very sobering reading.
“Industry, unions, government and of course coal workers were shocked last year with the discovery of multiple cases of pneumoconiosis after almost three decades,” Mr Roche said. “Industry is appalled at the apparent failure across the spectrum of screening, from lung function tests, chest x-rays through to questions over the qualifications and expertise of those carrying out the testing and screening.”
To date, 11 Queensland miners have been diagnosed with pneumoconiosis.
“This is why we have to act quickly upon the recommendations in this report, and is the reason why eight underground coal mining companies have written a joint letter of support to Dr Lynham, backing a new protocol for health screening of coal workers,” Mr Roche said.
“QRC members are sprinting out of the blocks to help to do their part to action the recommendations that are within their powers. Sadly, those companies thought they were doing the right thing for their workers’ health by having them regularly screened – tragically it was that very process that has been found to have repeatedly failed. Prevention, through stricter mechanisms to protect workers from dust, and early detection via an overhaul of existing health screening practices and expertise are the beginning. Industry is committed to working together to ensure dust levels remain under the appropriate limit.”
The Minister is to be congratulated for initiating a well-considered, comprehensive review using a broad range of experts and overseen by a tri-partite reference group from the spectrum of stakeholders and experts, Mr Roche said.
“This report is a huge wake-up call and will result in essential changes to health screening, dust control and dust monitoring to ensure every one of the thousands of underground coal workers are protected into the future,” Mr Roche said.
“QRC and its members will work with the Queensland government and medical experts to ensure that the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme is upgraded to a standard that will once again provide reassurance to workers. It is vital that all parties work together to achieve the best outcomes for Queensland coal workers.”
Industry is determined to collaborate to share learnings on successful practices for dust management and have committed to hold a dust management workshop in the third quarter of 2016, Mr Roche said.
Edited from press release by Angharad Lock
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/coal/15072016/industry-backs-decisive-action-to-fix-coal-worker-health-screening-2031/