Black lung victims community support group chair Jim Pearce.
Black lung victims community support group chair Jim Pearce. Luke Mortimer

Register to improve testing rates, says black lung victim

A BLACK lung victims advocate says the creation of Australia's first dust-related disease register will fix the current "mishmash" of data and provide a more accurate picture of the prevalence of mine dust lung diseases.

Pneumoconiosis (black lung), silicosis and other occupational dust diseases will now be recorded on the Queensland Health Notifiable Dust Lung Disease Register following State Government changes to the Public Health Act 2005 and Public Health Regulation 2018.

The State Government has also worked with industry, unions and medical professionals to make a raft of reforms to help prevent and identify mine dust lung disease.

Under the changes, doctors who are specialists in occupational and respiratory medicine are required to report cases of occupational dust lung diseases to the Queensland Health Notifiable Dust Lung Disease Register from July 1, 2019.

Black lung victims community support group chair Jim Pearce said at present, there were up to four different methods for mine workers to find out if they were positive for black lung.

"At the moment, it's a mishmash of pathways - the data is not accurate because it's not coming from one place," Mr Pearce said.

"(The register) is a very positive step forward for all those people who are employed in the coal industry because what it will do is make sure they go and have their tests without fear of their bosses becoming aware that they've had a test, because it's all confidential.

"There's a lot of workers out there who will simply not have any test because they are scared of the consequences of bosses becoming aware - they're scared they will be fired."

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the register would also allow for the tracking of emerging workplace health issues.

"Last September we announced $25 million over two years to deliver more reforms to protect coal workers' health and safety," Dr Lynham said.

"We will continue to deliver on our commitment to coal workers across Queensland."

Health Minister Steven Miles said all current and former mine workers and stonemasons were encouraged to undertake a health screening.

"Early detection of some dust-lung conditions may make the difference between life and death for patients," he said.

"Meanwhile, these reforms will ensure we have the best data at our disposal, so we can begin to identify cases of dust-related lung diseases early."

Mr Pearce encouraged the State Government to continue its work in protecting coal workers' health and safety.

He said this included ensuring ongoing funding for the black lung mobile screening van, ensuring the van continued to be staffed, and ensuring hospitals were equipped with the latest technology and were staffed.

"(The State Government) needs to keep focused, but what they've been doing shows they have real commitment to doing what they promised," Mr Pearce said.

"More works needs to be done, we've got to get the allowable dust levels in mines down further."

Workers or family members seeking more information about health screening should phone the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland hotline on 1300 362 128.