In 2017, a Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation was devised by the Queensland government. This brought about key changes that included broadening workers’ health assessment requirements, listing certain occupational diseases (e.g. pneumoconiosis) as ‘notifiable’ and introducing retirement examinations for coal mine workers leaving the industry.
Now in 2020, this regulation has been reviewed and amended in the name of further developing respiratory health surveillance for Queensland’s mineral mine and quarry workers. These changes are set to commence on 1st September: but what exactly do they entail?
A summary of the changes
The mandate laid out by the 2020 amendment requires the following:
- Respiratory health surveillance for workers prior to commencing work in the mineral mine and quarry industry, then at least once every 5 years
- Medical examinations including spirometry and chest X-ray that are consistent with best practice respiratory screening according to international standards
- Follow-up investigation in the event of abnormal results
- Exit respiratory health medicals for workers leaving the industry after at least 3 years
- Access to free medical screening for retired and former workers.
Once these changes are in effect, mineral mine and quarry operators will have 2 years (until 1st September 2022) to ensure all their workers have undergone a respiratory health surveillance medical: in other words, while these health assessments were advised in 2017, they will now be mandatory. Given the array of respiratory hazards these workers can be exposed to (silica dust, welding fume etc.) and the potentially lethal health issues that may result from exposure, this is a huge step in the right direction.
What more can be done besides health surveillance?
As well as monitoring their workers’ condition, employers should look to take active steps to protect their employees’ health. This includes the selection of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) such as powered air purifying respirators (PAPR): these offer a Required Minimum Protection Factor (RMPF) of 50, meaning they supply at least 50 times cleaner air than you would otherwise breathe unprotected.
Speedglas welding helmets with the award-winning Adflo PAPR are among the most popular powered air systems in the world and, with the right type of filter, can effectively protect against a range of hazardous particles, gases and vapours. You can explore this elite collection of respiratory welding helmets via the link below!
For more information…
This year AWS have released a series of resources for welders, employers and the industry at large. On the one hand, the 2020 Welding Fume Update outlines the current state of play concerning welding fume and lung cancer: and on the other hand, there is the comprehensive report on our 2020 Welding Fume Survey that features the results of polling over 2,400 welders. Both are available to download for free below!