The New South Wales (NSW) Resources Regulator is investigating potential work health and safety breaches after three workers were diagnosed with possible dust disease. Two workers have been diagnosed with pneumoconiosis and one is said to have an unconfirmed case after receiving health screenings required under the state’s work health and safety (WHS) framework, according to NSW Resources Regulator Chief Inspector Garvin Burns.
“One case relates to a current worker in his 60s who was largely employed in Queensland open-cut mines for over 40 years before moving to a NSW open-cut coalmine in recent years,” Burns said. “The second case relates to a current worker in his 40s who spent about 10 years in NSW South Coast coalmines before spending the last few years in the tunnelling industry and only recently returned to the coalmining industry.”
The third, unconfirmed, case relates to a “current worker in his 40s” who “worked in an underground mine for the past nine years and is not known to have worked in any other jurisdictions or high-risk industries”, Burns said. “These detections demonstrate why it is critical that NSW mine and quarry operators have robust controls in place to reduce the risk of exposure to airborne contaminants. We are closely examining each case for potential work health and safety breaches and identifying any opportunities to further strengthen the regulatory scheme,” Burns said.
Over the past 12 months, the NSW Resources Regulator has conducted 45 targeted assessments and inspections at NSW mines and quarries as part of a major compliance campaign to ensure appropriate dust controls were in place to minimise workers’ exposure risk, it said. The NSW Resources Regulator has also supported Safe Work Australia’s recommendation to reduce the Australian Workplace Exposure Standard for respirable coal dust from 2.5 to 1.5 mg/m3 and respirable crystalline silica from 0.1 to 0.05 mg/m3.
Employers should encourage current and former NSW coal workers to contact Coal Services Health on (02) 6571 9900 to arrange a medical if they have any concerns over their wellbeing, the NSW Resources Regulator advised.
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