This article outlines the recent and near future changes to respirable dust in coal mines and recent innovations by SLR's Occupational Safety and Hygiene Team to assist mines effectively and efficiently manage the issue.
In September 2016 after the identification of 21 cases of Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis (CWP or Black Lung), a coal dust inhalation disease thought eradicated in the QLD mining industry, the QLD Parliament established the Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis Select Committee (committee). In May 2017, the committee released its report and recommendations “Black lung white lies” (report). The report presented 68 recommendations for Black Lung management in QLD.
Key recommendations included:
- The establishment of the Mine Safety and Health Authority as an independent regulatory and research organisation to the based in Mackay, the disbandment of SIMTARS Occupational Hygiene Services and the passing of these to independent commercial providers;
- The introduction of Recognised Standard 14: Monitoring of respirable coal dust (RS14) to increase monitoring intensity (now inplace as of 23 Dec 2016);
- The decreased occupational exposure limit from 3.0 mg/m3 air to 1.5 mg/m3 for coal mine dust and 0.5 mg/m3 for silica and the introduction of real time dust monitors;
- Health surveillance, dust monitoring and management activities to be expanded to include workers involved in the transportation and handling of coal outside a ‘coal mine’ including rail workers (e.g.: coal train loaders and drivers), port workers (eg: dozer, stacker/reclaimer, and ship loader operators), power station workers, and maritime workers (eg: tug and line boat crew);
- The introduction of a centralised dust abatement database to which mine operators regularly submit monitoring data;
- The introduction of dust abatement plans for open cut and underground mining operations;
- Increased frequency and scope of health assessments to include chest Xrays and spirometer tests for all coal workers (as defined above); and
- The increase of unannounced and random inspection frequency and penalties.
SLR Mackay’s Occupational Safety and Hygiene Team is leading and working with clients to meet these new requirements as they emerge through legislation changes. We have developed and implemented Health Hazard Identification, Risk Assessments and Hygiene Monitoring Programs in accordance with Standard 14, data management for integration with the upcoming database with compliance alert solutions, effective and efficient monitoring, coal worker training and notification systems to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency worker health management and provide a seamless transition to these recent and emerging legislative changes.