Health and Safety CONFERENCE

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Lung Disease Screening in Queensland Coal Mining

Dean Barr
A/Director, Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme

Kerri Melkersson
Director, Health Surveillance Unit, Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

Since the re-identification of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis in Queensland in 2015, and reforms resultant from the Monash and UIC independent expert review of 2016, the department has implemented improved screening methods for the detection of respiratory disease in coal mine workers.

As at March 2019, more than 30,000 chest x-rays have been dual read to International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, resulting in 99% returning a negative result for disease. Of the 1.0% which screened positive, 15 have resulted in a diagnosis of disease.</p .

The department receives reports of cases of mine dust lung disease (MDLD) through a number of pathways; doctors, mine operators and the workers’ compensation scheme all provide confirmation of diagnoses within the mining and quarrying sectors. As at March 2019, 99 cases of MDLD have been reported across all sectors since 1984 (89 since 2015).

Separate to the reforms implemented in the mining regulatory framework, the Queensland Parliament is considering a Bill to establish a Notifiable Dust Lung Diseases Register to be administered by Queensland Health. This will provide a further mechanism to ensure the incidence of disease is understood.

This paper provides an overview of the current screening pathways to detect MDLD in Queensland mine workers.