The CFMEU has launched a new campaign aimed at improving health checks, dust inspections and other government regulations in response to the re-emergence of the Black Lung disease at coal mines in Queensland.
The initiative comes after the Queensland authorities confirmed one new case of Black Lung disease, with four other cases awaiting official diagnosis on top of the four cases reported in November.
The “Dust to Dust; Make Black Lung History” campaign will seek a public inquiry into the re-emergence of the disease and the fulfilment of six clear commitments from the Queensland Government. These commitments include:
- Introducing legislation requiring dust levels to be monitored and publicly reported by an independent statutory body.
- Ensuring suitably qualified “B Readers” review all x-rays taken of coalmine workers and funding a training programme in industry best practises for coal dust controls.
- Clearing the backlog of 100,000 outstanding worker medicals.
- Healthcare and screening to be extended into workers’ retirement.
- Identifying other at-risk workers by randomly sampling those with 15+ years service in the mining industry and performing checks.
- Implementing community informing and an outreach program to encourage people in mining communities to be checked.
CFMEU Queensland Mining and Energy division President Steve Smyth said the campaign would help address the increasingly deteriorating health standards in the state’s mining sector.
“If people are concerned about their health or just want more information, we recommend they visit the site to sign up to the campaign and register their health issue and story,” Mr Smyth said.
“The Queensland Government’s Sims Review is a welcome start, but we must give people a chance to have their say and make public submissions through an open and transparent process. I hope the Government opens its review up and we stand ready to work with them if and when they do.”
He said the spreading of the disease confirmed the Union’s worst predictions, adding that they expect many more diagnosed cases in the coming months.
“We can’t put a figure on it because the regulatory system that is meant to detect problems has been asleep for decades, but it could be a big number,” Mr Smyth said.
“They haven’t had specialists, who are known as ‘B-readers’, checking miners X-rays and according to data reported by mining companies themselves, dust levels have been 5-10 times the legal limit. That has to change.”