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Published Thursday, 5th January 2017

There have been several important changes to the regulations governing coal mine safety and health which have come into affect as of 1st January 2017. To help further explain these changes and what impact they will have on your business, we have prepared this overview article.

Health Assessments for Workers

All coal mine workers must have a health assessment. This assessment must include the following tests:

  • Respiratory Function (i.e. Spirometry Test)
  • Chest X-Ray Examination

Because of these requirements, section 1 of the health assessment form now includes two new sections:

1.2 – Reasons for health assessment and matters to be addressed
1.3 – Requirement for respiratory function and chest x-ray

Section 1 of the health assessment paperwork must be completed by the employer, prior to the applicant undergoing their health assessment.

Respiratory Function Tests + Chest X-Rays for Surface Workers

All coal miners who are surface workers and have not previously been employed in an underground role, must now have a chest x-ray and respiratory function test every 10 years. If you are unsure about when the employee last had either a chest x-ray or a lung function test, you can obtain this information by contacting the Department of Natural Resources and Mines Health Surveillance Unit on 07 3818 4520.

Respiratory Function Tests + Chest X-Rays for Surface Workers who previously Worked Underground

If an employee is working in a surface role but has previously worked underground, they must now have a chest x-ray and respiratory function test every 5 years. If you are unsure about when the employee last had either a chest x-ray or a lung function test, you can obtain this information by contacting the Department of Natural Resources and Mines Health Surveillance Unit on 07 3818 4520.

Additional Changes to the Health Assessment

  • Inclusion of a standardised respiratory questionnaire
  • Inclusion of comparative respiratory assessments when assessment undertaken as part of a periodic health assessment
  • Chest X-rays are to be performed in accordance with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Guidelines for the use of the ILO International Classification of Radiographs of Pneumoconiosis.
  • Personnel performing respiratory function and chest x-rays must be competent and qualified to perform such tests.

Timing of Assessments

Workers employed at a Coal Mine Site as of 1st January 2017 are expected to have had a health assessment within the last 5 years. The frequency for workers to undertake health assessments has not changed and remains as:

  • Before being employed at a coal mine site
  • If the NMA considers it necessary after being given a notice by the employer of an appreciable increase in the level of risk  to coal mine worker pursuant to section 49
  • Periodically, as decided by the NMA, but at least every 5 years.

Retirement Examinations

Coal mine workers retiring permanently from the industry are now able to request a retirement examination from their employer. The employer is responsible for organising and funding this retirement examination. For more information about retirement examinations for coal miners, please click here.

Reporting Prescribed Diseases

Site Senior Executives (SSE’s) must now report the following diseases to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis
  • Legionellosis (and worker was exposed to legionella at the mine)
  • Silicosis (and worker was exposed to crystalline silica dust at the mine)

To help SSE’s meet this requirement, when the NMA is completing a workers health assessment report or retirement examination they must note if any of the notifiable diseases are diagnosed. The Section 4 has been updated to include the list of notifiable diseases.

For more information about these changes and the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme, please click here.

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