Mandatory Lung Checks for Queensland Mine Workers

August 31, 2020 Updated: August 31, 2020

The Queensland government has introduced free, mandatory lung health checks for mineworkers while aiming to reduce dust levels at coal and silica mines—the cause of black lung disease and silicosis.

The mandatory health checks are already in place for coal workers and will extend to the state’s 15,000 metalliferous mine and quarry workers from today.

“Every Queensland worker has the right to a healthy career and life free of occupational disease,” Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said in a media release on Sept. 1.

From Sept. 1, the legal limit for respirable coal dust is cut to 1.5 milligrams per cubic metre from 2.5; and for respirable silica dust is cut to 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre from 1.

Every metalliferous mine and quarry worker will have a chest X-ray that is read by at least two qualified radiologists as well as a lung function test. This will happen when they start in the industry and every five years during their career in the industry. They can also choose to access free respiratory health checks for life after they leave the industry.

Lynham said: “The most important resource to come off a mine site every day is a worker.”

“Queensland now has the toughest mine safety and health laws in the world—including the offence of industrial manslaughter,” he said, adding the resource workers make a massive contribution to the state’s economy as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state  introduced its industrial manslaughter offences on Oct. 23, 2017, to make sure that bosses who have negligently caused the death of workers were held accountable.

The Queensland industrial manslaughter provisions in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 make it an offence for a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), or a senior officer, to cause the death of a worker negligently.

The industrial manslaughter offence will apply if:

  • a worker dies, or is injured and later dies, while carrying out work for the business or during a break;
  • the PCBU or senior officer’s conduct substantially contributes to a worker’s death through action or inaction;
  • the PCBU, or senior officer’s, action departs so far from the standard of care that it is negligent about causing the death of the worker.

The industrial manslaughter offence comes with a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for an individual, or $10 million for a body corporate.

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