The Australian coal mining industry has proudly maintained an enviable health and safety record. The cases of coal workers pneumoconiosis (commonly known as black lung disease) in Queensland are a sobering reminder that dust-related disease is not a thing of the past.
The re-emergence of this disease has heightened the call for further vigilance and rigour around the Australian coal industry’s prevention and control strategies. Coal Services’ Managing Director/CEO, Ms Flemming said the robust nature of the NSW legislation, combined with the iligence of dust monitoring and environmental standards in NSW coal mines, is instrumental in protecting mine workers’ health and keeping black lung disease at bay. ‘Our unique collaborative model includes all stakeholder groups, including workers, employers, community and government,’ Ms Flemming said. ‘Preventative measures carried out by Coal Services, such as periodic health surveillance, chest x-rays, education and personal dust exposure monitoring, have also helped to ensure the health and safety of NSW coal industry workers.’
Under the NSW Coal Industry Act 2001, Coal Services is responsible for independently executing the State’s government Orders 34, 40, 41 and 42. This involves working with coal mining companies on safety training, dust mitigation and control technique, and health surveillance. Dust onitoring results are reported back to industry and government departments. Coal Services, through the Standing Dust Committee (SDC), also maintains an overview of all the results of the dust monitoring programme. The committee reviews all dust exceedances including the ontributing factors, and the pursuant reviews and actions taken and results of resampling triggered by the exceedance. This process helps drive exposure levels downwards.
Ms Flemming said ‘The prevention of black lung disease in NSW to date is a testament to the unwavering vigilance and collaborative efforts of not only Coal Services in executing the Orders, but also the work of the Department and their Inspectorate, Industry Safety and Health representatives, and compliant employers and workers.’
She reaffirmed that Coal Services health surveillance practices and other monitoring and detection processes have supported the health and safety of NSW coal workers.