PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The CFMEU believes the Black Lung disease has reached a crisis level and is escalating, after another coal mine worker was officially diagnosed to have the disease, bringing the total number of infected persons to 15.
CFMEU mining and energy division Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said on Tuesday that the latest miner to suffer from the disease had originally been cleared on two separate occasions by nominated medical assessors and radiologists.
Despite medical professionals giving the coal mine worker a clear bill of health following an X-ray in May 2015, the disease was picked up months later when the mine started a full review of all existing medical records with internationally recognised Black Lung disease expert Dr Bob Cohen.
Cohen identified Black Lung disease in the miner and called for further tests to be done. However, Queensland medical professionals cleared the miner following a CT scan conducted in March 2016.
“It is unbelievable that this disease was missed twice by Australian health professionals in less than a year,” Smyth said.
“This failure shows that the Black Lung crisis is escalating and why coal mine workers have lost all confidence in the health and regulatory systems that are supposed to be there to keep them safe.”
Smyth said while the union was aware of more cases of Black Lung disease, especially from coal mine workers not wanting to put their jobs and livelihoods at risk by coming forward, failures in the system were also deflating confirmed cases.
“This coal mine worker had two tests done in 12 months, and both were cleared by Australian health professionals. He also would have had tests done when he started working in Queensland mines, and X-rays done every five years since then. Yet, he has no idea how long he has been living with Black Lung.
“When the system is still failing to identify Black Lung disease despite multiple checks then we still just don’t know how many cases there could be or how many workers are living with the disease but are still going to work each day.”
The miner has worked in underground longwall mines for 36 years, most recently in the Carborough Downs mine in Central Queensland, where four other cases of Black Lung disease have been identified.
In July, the Queensland government released a report into a review of the Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme, which revealed "major system failures at virtually all levels” of the design and operation of the respiratory component of the scheme.
Queensland Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham, at the time, acknowledged weaknesses in the Australian system and announced that all new X-rays would be checked by an Australian radiologist and by US-based accredited X-ray readers, until local radiologists underwent further training to the international standard.
The state government's new three-pronged strategy focuses on the prevention of new cases, early detection through better screening and a safety net for miners with coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.