Queensland’s 15,000 mineral mine and quarry workers will soon have free lung health checks for life to protect them from mine dust lung diseases like silicosis.
Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the mandatory free checks would apply from 1 September.
“Every Queensland worker has the right to safe working conditions and peace of mind,” Dr Lynham said.
“As a doctor I know that hand-in-hand with disease prevention goes early detection, because it helps stop disease progressing.
“And mandatory screening is critical for early detection.”
Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said many miners and families in North Queensland would benefit from the new health checks.
“Our mine workers make a massive contribution to Queensland’s economy, and particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“I know workers, and their families, will welcome these extra measures to protect their health on top of the many safety reforms the Palaszczuk Government has put in place.”
Mr Stewart urged mine workers to alert friends and colleagues who may have left the industry to contact the mine dust health support service on 1300 445 715 to also access their free health checks.
Under the changes that take effect from 1 September, every 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, at least once every five years during their career in the industry.
And after they leave the industry, they can continue to have free respiratory health checks for life, if they want to.
The measures provide mineral mine and quarry workers with the same health checks as their 37,000 coal mining counterparts who already have free mandatory respiratory health screening.
Dr Lynham said the free health checks were part of the expanding suite of reforms under the Palaszczuk Government to protect the health and safety of all mine and quarry workers.
Those reforms include:
- a mobile health service, scheduled to start by the end of 2020, that will provide lung health checks to past and present regional mine and quarry workers across the state.
- a confidential mine dust health support service (1300 445 715) that helps current and former mine workers access the information and services they need.
- voluntary access to the health checks for retired or former coal, mineral mine and quarry workers.
- creating industrial manslaughter as an offence, with executives facing up to 20 years’ jail if Queensland mine and quarry workers die because of their criminal negligence.
- $35 million to deliver reforms to improve the safety and health of mine workers.
- increased maximum penalties for offences to $4 million and powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court.
- establishing an independent resources safety and health authority.
The Queensland Resources Council welcomed the government’s mandatory checks, citing their strong partnership and encouraging mine workers to alert their friends and colleagues to contact the health support services.
“QRC member companies already pay for the lung health checks of their mine workers and following negotiations with WorkCover and the Government, we have secured free lung health checks for retired workers,” QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said.
“The testing is in the form a chest X-ray that is read by at least two qualified radiologists as well as a lung function test.
“These testing arrangements are already in place for coal mine workers.”