Industry shake-up needed to eradicate Black Lung in Queensland

13 July 2016
A damning report released today into black lung disease has highlighted the urgent need for more stringent oversight within the coal mining industry to ensure proper monitoring, testing and checks are undertaken to protect workers, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said today.

Maurice Blackburn Senior Associate Jonathan Walsh, who specialises in dust disease law, said Queensland had long fallen behind other states when it came to monitoring and managing the risks of coal dust exposure and black lung disease for workers.
 
“Clearly as this report shows, the current system has let people down in properly detecting and managing the significant health risks of coal dust exposure for workers,” Mr Walsh said.
 
“Tragically for the workers affected, their exposure was not detected in a timely or effective way and the consequences for them are significant.
 
“For too long there has wrongly been an assumption that black lung disease had been eradicated in Queensland and with that has come a relaxing of standards and monitoring within the industry.
 
“This is not good enough - clearly there was exposure occurring that put workers at risk and it was missed.
 
“Today’s report is a wake-up call. The Queensland industry is severely lacking for any proper coal dust monitoring structure or group to identify and manage exposure risks.
 
“Other states such as New South Wales, where the disease has not been seen for many years, have in place a dedicated body that enforces regulation and monitoring.
 
“Queensland’s structures in this regard however have been inadequate, and they require an urgent and major shake-up,” he said.
 
Mr Walsh also called for the industry to ensure that funds were made available to assist any workers who may need testing in the future.
 
“Much of the testing for black lung is highly specialised, and is not always readily available in regional and remote areas where the exposure may have occurred,” Mr Walsh said.
 
“It is critical that the industry supports workers to get this testing, including covering travel costs if required and any other costs associated with getting these important tests.”

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