Queensland mines legislation and dust management
From 1 September 2020, the occupational exposure limits (OEL) for respirable dust and respirable crystalline silica (RCS) are 1.5mg/m3 and 0.05mg/m3 respectively.
All mines must comply with obligations under either the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 or the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 to protect the safety and health of persons at mines.
Mines must ensure that the risk of injury or illness to any person resulting from operations is at an 'acceptable' level. This means that the level of risk must be not only within acceptable limits but also as low as reasonably achievable.
The legislative requirements are summarised below. This list is not exhaustive, however, and you must refer to the Acts and the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017 or Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2017, as applicable, for comprehensive and current information.
Section 89 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017 requires that a coal mine’s safety and health management system:
- ensures workers’ exposure to respirable dust is at acceptable levels and does not exceed an average concentration equivalent to the following for an 8-hour period, calculated using Australian standard AS 2985:
- coal dust: 1.5mg/m3 air
- free silica : 0.05mg/m3 air
- ensures that if shifts are longer than 8 hours, the dose of respirable coal dust in the breathing zone of the operator is not greater than the equivalent 8-hour dose
- provides personal protective equipment, if applicable
- monitors and records concentrations of respirable dust and silica
- makes records available to workers
- suppresses airborne dust so a person's safety is not threatened (e.g. reduced visibility)
- provides for review of dust control measures and necessary adjustments to the safety and health management system.
Section 89 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017 also requires a coal mine's safety and health management system to also provide for:
- review of dust control measures and safety and health management system changes to ensure dust levels above those prescribed are reduced to within prescribed levels
- regular reporting of all respirable dust monitoring records and notification if respirable dust concentrations exceed prescribed levels. Read details of safety and health reporting requirements for coal mines
- resampling within 2 weeks to check the effectiveness of the revised dust control measures (and notification of any continued elevated respirable dust concentrations).
Since 1 January 2017, carrying out sampling of respirable dust in accordance with AS 2985 at a coal mine has been a prescribed task under section 76(3)(a) of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999. Only a person who has a competency recognised by the Coal Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee for the task may conduct respirable dust sampling at a coal mine.
Other provisions include:
- keeping records of monitoring for a worker's exposure to a hazard for at least 30 years (s. 53)
- having standard operating procedures for cutting, welding and using explosives and explosive powered tools in dusty locations (ss. 96, 221)
- having controls to minimise the risk of coal dust explosion and propagation, including the use of stone dust (ss. 213, 220, 300, 301).
Mineral mines and quarries
The Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2017 includes requirements for:
- personal monitoring and recording of exposure levels at appropriate stages or intervals during mining operations (s. 9 and s. 11)
- health surveillance of workers (at the employer’s expense) (ss. 145A – 145N)
- retention of monitoring records for 30 years, if the hazard has a cumulative or delayed effect
- management of risks with respect to mine layout, design and construction (s. 45)
- selection and design of plant to incorporate engineering controls to protect plant operator and other persons (s. 100)
- monitoring as per Australian standard AS 3640 for inhalable dust and Australian standard AS 2985 for respirable dust (s. 136)
- exposure standards as sampled as per AS 3640 for inhalable dust and AS 2985 for respirable dust
- provision for operation of electrical equipment for explosion protection (prevention of ignition of combustible dust) (s. 21)
- written procedures for blasting that include provision for dust generation (s. 70)
- the site senior executive to ensure regular analysis of the monitoring results (s. 136).