Oct 13, 2018

Union call to step up action on coal dust disease

Union call to step up action on coal dust disease

CFMEU Mining and Energy has called for independent monitoring of dust levels to be urgently introduced in Queensland to help manage a crisis in diseases such as black lung and silicosis.

And they want coal mining companies to stump up towards support for victims through a levy scheme.

Simtars – the Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station – had the expertise and independence to carry out monitoring in the best interests of workers, CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth said.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth.

“The government has initiated some important measures to address the shocking re-emergence of black lung and other mine dust diseases. In particular, we welcome the reduction in allowable dust levels recently announced,” he said.

“But much more action and investment is needed if we are going to stem the growing tide of shocking diagnoses of deadly mine dust lung diseases like ‘black lung’, silicosis and emphysema.

“We need to introduce independence to dust monitoring and medical assessments, to make sure companies can’t cut corners or cover up poor results when it comes to workers’ health.

“In our experience, some companies are doing the right thing and taking dust exposure seriously, while others need to be forced to take responsibility.

“We also need greater protections for workers who are too often thrown on the scrap heap when they receive a dust disease diagnosis.”

Mr Smyth said the government had invested in a series of initiatives on black lung including medical training and review of mineworkers’ x-rays, but industry should also contribute to the cost of stamping out dust diseases.

“It’s the mining companies who have caused this problem. They have profited greatly from Queensland’s high quality coal resources and neglected to protect workers’ health. It’s not fair that taxpayers should now have to stump up and foot the entire bill,” he said.

“That’s why the union supports the call from the Mine Dust Disease Victims Group for a levy on coal mining companies of one cent per tonne per week on Queensland coal towards a fund to support victims.”

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