Queensland lung health checks expand silicosis protections

Tuesday, 07 July, 2020

Starting 1 September 2020, Queensland’s 15,000 mineral mine and quarry workers will have free lung health checks for life, to protect them from mine dust lung diseases like silicosis, the Queensland Government announced. The initiative forms part of a suite of reforms under the Palaszczuk government. “Every Queensland worker has the right to safe working conditions and peace of mind,” the state’s Mines Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham, said. “As a doctor I know that hand in hand with disease prevention goes early detection, because it helps stop disease progressing. And mandatory screening is critical for early detection.” Member for Townsville, Scott Stewart, said many miners and families in North Queensland would benefit from the new health checks. “Our mine workers make a massive contribution to Queensland’s economy, and particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stewart said. “I know workers, and their families, will welcome these extra measures to protect their health on top of the many safety reforms the Palaszczuk government has put in place.”

Mine workers are urged to alert friends and colleagues who may have left the industry to contact the mine dust health support service on 1300 445 715 to access their free health checks. As part of the changes coming into effect from 1 September, every worker will have a chest X-ray read by at least two qualified radiologists, as well as a lung function test. This will happen when they start in the industry and at least once every five years during their career in the industry. After leaving the industry, workers can continue to have free respiratory health checks for life, if they want to. These measures will provide mineral mine and quarry workers with the same health checks as their 37,000 mining counterparts, who already receive free respiratory health screening. Other reforms implemented by the Palaszczuk government include a mobile health service scheduled to start by the end of 2020 that will provide lung health checks to past and present regional mine and quarry workers across Queensland, and a confidential mine dust health support service (1300 445 715) that helps all mine workers access the information and services they need.

Voluntary access to the health checks has also been established for retired or former coal, mineral mine and quarry workers. The Palaszczuk government also created industrial manslaughter as an offence, and increased maximum penalties for offences to $4 million, with powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court. The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) welcomed the announcement by the state government that retired metalliferous mine workers would receive free health checks. “QRC member companies already pay for the lung health checks of their mine workers and following negotiations with WorkCover and the government, we have secured free lung health checks for retired workers,” QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said. “The testing is in the form of a chest X-ray that is read by at least two qualified radiologists, as well as a lung function test. These testing arrangements are already in place for coalmine workers.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Minerva Studio

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