The Resources Training Council is calling on the government and the mining industry to provide better training in a bid to combat the incidence of black lung disease, a respiratory illness caused by long-term exposure to coal dust.
A parliamentary select committee was convened by the Queensland Government in September last year to inquire into black lung after 19 confirmed cases were reported to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines since May 2015. Prior to this, there had been no cases reported to the department for many years.
The six-member committee is due to hand down its report next month but the Council, the national peak and representative body for resources training in Australia, says the best cure is prevention.
“It is a very concerning situation for coal mine workers across Australia, both underground and surface, we need everyone to have the opportunity to work in a safe environment,” said Resources Training Council President, Ms Heather Munro.
“We thought we were on top of black lung and the controls appeared to be working so we stopped talking about it and we stopped including it in the information and training we provided to our workers.
“Ahead of the inquiry’s findings, the Queensland Government released a five-point plan in January to tackle the re-emergence of black lung but none of the actions addressed training. Training should be Action number one,” Ms Munro said.
Mackay based Resources Training Organisation Col Joy Training agreed the re-emergence of black lung highlighted a need to educate and arm coal miner workers with more information on its prevention.
“A Generic Induction to Coal Mining was introduced in 1997 and had a section dedicated to the dangers of coal dust inhalation and how to minimise the risk,” Mr Joy revealed.
“This is no longer discussed within outside and internal induction processes so that could be reintroduced to provide information to new coal mine workers.
“Miners, unions, training providers and government need to unify on this problem if we are going to minimise its effects into the future,” he said.
Ms Munro said the effects of coal dust were not to be sneezed at.
“Workers in the resources sector work hard and support the Australian economy, they shouldn’t have to pay for that with their life,” she said.