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Safety

The final report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the re-identification of Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis (CWP) in Queensland was tabled this week and has gone far beyond recommending changes to coal dust management.

The Parliamentary Committee described the implementation of the current regulatory system as a "catastrophic failure" and is calling for significant and urgent reform of the entire regulatory framework for coal and metalliferous mines in Queensland. It made no less than 68 recommendations, including:

  • establishing an independent Mine Safety and Health Authority body, outside the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, responsible for ensuring the safety and health of all coal and metalliferous mining and resource workers
  • dissolving the Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station (SIMTARS) and redeploying its officers within the Inspectorate to perform research or occupational hygiene inspection activities
  • developing a new Coal Workers' Health Scheme and engaging a specialist physician to lead it
  • abolishing the current statutory safety and health fee (levy) on the coal and metalliferous industry, which funds the existing regulatory framework and the Inspectorate
  • halving the occupational exposure limits (OEL) set out in s 89 of the Coal Mine Safety and Health Regulation 2001 to 1.5 mg/m3 air for coal mine dust and 0.05 mg/m3 air for silica
  • establishing a new category of worker called "coal workers" to include those involved in other activities, such as the transportation and handling of coal, under the OEL changes and health scheme requirements
  • removing the requirement from the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 (CMSHA) and the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 (MQSHA) that union officials give reasonable notice before entering any part of a mine
  • amending the CMSHA so underground coal operators are required to submit mandatory dust abatement and ventilation plans for approval before starting or continuing operations
  • requiring the Inspectorate to increase the proportion of unannounced inspections to at least 50% of all inspections
  • requiring all coal workers—including those identified as "low risk"—to undergo mandatory health assessments before being employed at a site and on a regular basis thereafter (every three years for coal mine workers and six years for other coal workers)
  • abolishing the Advisory Committees established under the CMSHA and MQSHA, and
  • establishing a Standing Dust Committee—to include members of coal and metalliferous industries, ports and unions—to review atmospheric dust monitoring and trends.

A copy of the full report can be accessed here.

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