Characterising the biological effects of particulate matter exposures in coal mining to protect and improve the health of workers
At present, it is not clear how the existing standards for safe workplace exposure to coal dust have been generated, with the literature and the evidence upon which they are based pre-dating current mining practices. The advancement of coal technology, from the coalface to techniques of preparation, has not been replicated and/or complemented by a consistent development of supporting guidelines for safe exposures to PM along the handling and transportation chain.It is unknown if Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) protocols appropriately incorporate the levels of exposure to different types of coal dust (e.g. fines and tailings). Coal dust type will differ (e.g. chemical elements and compounds) due to coal seam composition variation and mining method (e.g. long wall vs open-cut mining). Coal dust type will also have different levels of effects on respiratory health, depending on the dust constituent properties, concentration and duration of exposure.We will address these important issues and define improved, evidence-based standards for safe exposure to different types of coal dust in Australian mining sites and transport and handling corridors. We will do this by characterising the biological and health effects of exposures to different types and levels of coal dust found in the workplace, from the mining source to the port and including all handling and transportation operations, with the goal of informing new regulations for re-defining risk, early identification of effects and safe PM exposures for coal and associated workers.