Mineral mines and quarries respiratory health surveillance

Queensland mineral mine and quarry workers may be exposed to a broad spectrum of respiratory hazards such as dusts (e.g. silica), welding fumes and diesel particulates.

Occupational exposure to respiratory hazards can lead to a range of lung diseases. These include forms of pneumoconioses (e.g. silicosis and siderosis), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (e.g. chronic bronchitis and emphysema) and lung cancer.

New requirement for medicals

Amendments to the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2017 (the Regulation) that commenced on 1 September 2020 ensure that Queensland mineral mine and quarry workers undertake periodic medicals to identify any changes in lung function or the early signs of lung disease.

The changes require site senior executives to arrange respiratory health surveillance for workers prior to commencing work in the mineral mine and quarry industry and then at least once every 5 years.

The medical examinations for respiratory health surveillance must include:

  • a chest examination that includes listening to the lungs
  • a chest X-ray dual-read by qualified radiologists to the international standard
  • spirometry tests and comparisons with previous spirometry tests where available
  • any examination deemed necessary by an appropriate doctor to support the early detection of injury or illness to the person’s respiratory system (e.g. high resolution computed tomography scan).

Read more about the changes which are detailed in:

Finding a medical provider

The Regulation requires site senior executives to use an appropriate doctor to undertake, or supervise, health surveillance for workers at a mine or quarry. An appropriate doctor must be appropriately qualified and have demonstrated knowledge of the risks associated with activities performed by workers.

The Guideline for respiratory health surveillance of workers in Queensland mineral mines and quarries (the Guideline) details the requirements for medical providers and associated examinations that are part of respiratory health surveillance.

In addition to the Guideline, Resources Safety & Health Queensland (RSHQ) has developed respiratory health surveillance forms that align with the Regulation and the Guideline and are recommended for use by doctors undertaking respiratory health surveillance.

The Guideline states that mine and quarry operators can achieve an acceptable level of risk by using doctors and medical providers registered with RSHQ. These doctors have demonstrated the required qualifications, experience and compliance with relevant standards and are the same doctors approved under the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme. This will ensure that workers, whether they work in coal, minerals or quarries, receive high quality respiratory health surveillance.

Search the register of doctors and medical providers for an approved provider.

Radiology providers that RSHQ has validated to deliver further reading services against the requirements in Section 6.3.3 (Further reading provider) of the Guideline are:
  • Lungscreen Australia.

Other providers can undertake these functions if they meet the requirements set out in the Guideline.

Responsibility

The site senior executive is responsible for ensuring respiratory health surveillance is implemented which must be paid by the employer.

Transition timeframe

Mineral mine and quarry operators have until 1 September 2022 to transition their systems and processes and ensure that their workers have undergone a respiratory health surveillance medical.

Retired and former workers

Workers who have permanently stopped working in the industry are eligible for respiratory health surveillance, including any follow-up investigations of abnormal results.

Former workers can qualify for a free respiratory health surveillance if all of the following apply:

  • worked for at least 3 years in the mining or quarrying industry
  • have permanently stopped being a mine or quarry worker
  • at least 5 years since their last respiratory health surveillance. (Note: A doctor can recommend earlier respiratory health surveillance.)

RSHQ will arrange and pay for the respiratory health surveillance including reasonable travel and accommodation costs. To apply, contact the Mine Dust Health Support Service on 1300 445 715 or email info@minedusthealthsupport.com.

Also consider…

Contact

Contact the Health Surveillance Unit