AUSTRALIAN radiologists are being sought to double-check the chest X-rays of Queensland coal miners in a bid to help tackle the re-emergence of black lung disease.
Twenty miners have been diagnosed with coal workers’ pneumoconiosis in Queensland since May 2015 – a disease caused by long-term exposure to respirable coal dust.
All Queensland coal miners have compulsory chest X-rays before, during, and when they leave the industry.
These X-rays have, since July last year, been checked twice – once by an Australian radiologist and again by US-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health expert.
But Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham today announced a call for tenders from Australian-based radiology services to conduct the second check.
“The US-based reading has been an interim measure until Australian radiologists have gained the internationally-recognised B-reader qualification,” he said.
“An all-Australian service will now mean faster results, and certainty, for our coal miners.
”The tender closes on 19 May, and should be awarded by July, with a transition period until all x-rays being handled in Australia by the end of the year.”
Dual-reading of the X-rays is one element of the three-pronged approach announced in July by government, industry, medical and union representatives to protect coal workers from black lung.
Also as part of the black lung measures, from 1 January this year:
- companies provide dust monitoring data to the Mines Inspectorate every three months for publishing online.
- black lung is a notifiable disease, meaning mining companies must report known cases to the Queensland Mines Inspectorate.
- coal mine workers permanently retiring from the industry can ask their employer for a retirement examination, including respiratory function and chest x-ray.
- chest x-ray are done according to International Labour Organisation guidelines.
Dr Lynham said the tender would be supported by strict conditions on facilities taking the x-rays to ensure that staff taking x-rays were suitably trained and qualified.
“I encourage any mine worker – past or present – who has concerns about their respiratory health to see their doctor,” he said.