Report says miners should be removed from unsafe areas now

What we know:

  • Report revealed mines as young as 30 being diagnosed with Black Lung Disease after 10 year in mining
  • Senator Deborah O'Neill says it was a "perfect storm" of incompetence and regulatory failure that led to its re-emergence 
  • 20 recommendations delivered today including the recommendation to immediately remove workers from unsafe areas until a national standard is adopted
  • Recommendation of national body of stakeholders to be set up, and national standards created 

Update 2.40: 

The outcomes from the senate inquiry into the re-emergence of Black Lung demonstrated systematic failings to mining workers from the industry and government, according to CFMEU mining division national secretary Andrew Vickers.  

Mr Vickers said the union was encouraged by the talk coming from the Queensland Government but has delivered a warned along with it.

"Labour Government or not, if they drag their feet on these (recommendations) we will wack them," he said.

"What's in place at the moment has failed miners." 

The senate inquiry delivered 20 recommendations including the setting up of a National that would look at international best practice. 

Part of the recommendation also included establishing a compensation fund for mining workers the disease has impacted.

"We were not surprised by the outcomes (of the inquiry)," Mr Vickers said. "We were surprised by the complancy exposed by the inquiry."

Mr Vickers said some of the recommendations could be implimented quickly with a "stroke of a pen".

Queensland Resource Council chief executive Michael Roche said the six workers diagnosed with pneumoconiosis was "six too many".

"The industry was shocked by the news as it was thought to have been eradicated decades ago because our top priority is the health and safety of mine workers," Mr Roche said.

"The QRC continues to fully support the Queensland review of the Coal Mine Workers' Health Scheme, headed by Monash University's Prof Malcolm Sim and the five-point action plan announced by the Mines Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham in January."

Mr Vickers said 



REGULATORY failure, mining industry indifference and incompetence, poor coal dust control and patchy monitoring of miners' health contributed to the re-emergence of coal miner's black lung disease, a Senate report to be released today has found.

"The sum of all these failing parts has left Australian coal workers vulnerable to CWP (Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis) and therefore vulnerable to early death," the Senate Select Committee on Health report states.

"Any delay in addressing these failures will inevitably lead to more cases of CWP in this country."

The timing of the report is poignant as workers today remember those who have lost their lives to workplace injury or illness on this International Day of Mourning.

The title of the committee's fifth interim report "Black Lung: 'It has buggered my life'", features a quote taken from evidence by CWP advocate Percy Verrall, who himself has the disease.

"The evidence provided in answers to the Committee's questions and in stakeholder submissions reveals a litany of regulator failure and regulatory capture, industry indifference and incompetence, inconsistent risk mitigation and patchy and sometimes compromised health monitoring throughout Australia."

Chair of the committee Senator Deborah O'Neill said all these factors taken together amounted to a "perfect storm" for the re-emergence of a disease all but eradicated 30 years ago.

"The most confounding and condemning evidence the committee heard is that black lung is completely preventable by controlling coal dust," Senator O'Neill said.

"Evidence that young men in their 30s have been recently diagnosed with black lung after only 10 years in the workforce was heartbreaking to hear."

Senator Doug Cameron said one of the key issues has been the failure of the deregulated system in Queensland where the six cases so far had been confirmed.

"The evidence we have heard from the experts and coal workers is the need for stronger regulations and the enforcement of dust suppression measures and dust mitigation," Senator Cameron said.

"Workers diagnosed with black lung should get appropriate support in addition to the basic workers' compensation entitlements." Senator O'Neill added urgent action must be taken and support must be given to black lung sufferers.

"This is a legacy issue inherited by the Queensland Government, which has acted swiftly to convene the Sim Review, but the disease has the potential to be a national problem," Senator O'Neill said.

"Mining is by nature undertaken by a highly skilled and mobile workforce while mining operations may differ in each state, people who contracted black lung in one state could be diagnosed in another.

"For our workers in the coal industry, young and old, a national preventative health standard must be articulated and regulations must be put in place to control coal dust not just monitor it."

The Executive Summary and Recommendations of the committee will be available after tabling of the report in the Senate at 11am today.

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