Doctors will require specific skills and experience in black lung to provide compulsory health checks on Queensland coal miners.
Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham says the proposal, a recommendation of an independent university review, would see doctors completing specific training, including going underground in a coal mine, before they could do miner health checks.
An independent auditor would also check on doctors’ qualifications and training.
“The health and safety of our coal mine workers is paramount and an essential element of that is early detection of any signs of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or other dust lung disease,” Dr Lynham said.
“This is a disease that has no obvious symptoms in its earliest stages, so it’s critical that the front line doctors have specific mining and occupational health and safety training.
“It’s an added protection in the suite of reforms the Palaszczuk Government has put in place since cases of black lung were reported in 2015.
“This new training system should be in place by the end of the year.”
Miners’ compulsory health assessments have always been supervised by medical professionals, with more than 250 doctors now acting as nominated medical advisers across the state. The proposal is for doctors to have additional training in occupational medicine and coal mining and be added to a nominated medical adviser register.
“This targeted accreditation and registration process will reduce numbers to a smaller, focused group of specifically-trained doctors,” Dr Lynham said.
The changes flow from the independent Monash University review into the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme, which recommended targeting early detection of coal mine dust lung diseases such as black lung.
As part of the government’s response to the review, all coal miners’ compulsory chest X-rays are now assessed at least twice, first by an Australian radiologist and then by US-based experts. By the end of this year, both checks will be done by qualified B reader Australian radiologists.