New dust disease compliance strategy launched in Queensland

New dust disease compliance strategy launched in Queensland

Queensland is continuing to fight silicosis exposure and is leading the country in its approach to workplace respiratory diseases, launching the third stage of respirable crystalline silica dust compliance audits.

The audits are part of Queensland Work Health and Safety’s effort “to manage the serious health risks faced by stone benchtop industry workers” and is part of an ongoing, compliance-focused approach to dust and silica-related illnesses.

The new stage will see thousands of quarry workers and miners who work with dust, offered free chest X-rays to better detect early signs of lung disease, while accepted limits of coal and silica dust have been significantly reduced.

The limit for respirable coal dust has been cut from 2.5 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic metre, a reduction of more than 60 per cent. In comparison, the permissible level of silica dust has been cut to 0.005 milligrams per cubic metre, a decrease of 95 per cent.

As part of the new initiative, miner’s lungs will be screened at the beginning of their careers, and every five years afterwards, with free respiratory health checks for life once they leave the industry.

There are more than 37,000 coal miners in Queensland who will be required to use the services, with an additional 15,000 workers in iron order, gold, silver, nickel, tin and zinc mines also able access to the service.

The state has recorded 169 cases of lung disease related to workplace dust exposure since 1984, with only nine of those recorded before 2014. The registered numbers in 2020 currently stand at 36.

Mines and Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham has explained that the mandatory measures are aimed at protecting the significant number of workers in industries that have a risk of dust-related illness.

“The most important resource to come off a mine site every day is a worker,” Dr Lynham said in a statement.

“Queensland now has the toughest mine safety and health laws in the world – including the offence of industrial manslaughter.”


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