Free lung health checks for Queensland quarry workers

 

Queensland’s quarrying and mineral mining workers will be given free lung health checks for life to protect them from dust-related lung diseases.

From 1 September, Queensland’s 15,000 mine and quarrying workers will be given free mandatory lung health checks to prevent exposure to deadly diseases such as respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

It will involve a chest X-Ray that is analysed by two radiologists, along with a lung function test. The service will also be available free of charge to people who have left the industry.

“Every Queensland worker has the right to safe working conditions and peace of mind,” Queensland Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said. “As a doctor I know that hand-in-hand with disease prevention goes early detection, because it helps stop disease progressing. And mandatory screening is critical for early detection.”

From 1 September, the tests will occur when a mine or quarry worker first starts in the industry and will be repeated at least once every five years . Free respiratory health checks will be offered to workers after they leave the industry or retire.

The Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said Queensland’s quarrying and mining workforce would benefit greatly from testing.

“Our mine workers make a massive contribution to Queensland’s economy, and particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stewart said.

“I know workers, and their families, will welcome these extra measures to protect their health on top of the many safety reforms the Palaszczuk Government has put in place.”

The Palaszczuk Government has introduced $35 million worth of health and safety reforms for Queensland’s quarrying and mining workforce, including a mobile health service that will provide lung checks by the end of 2020 and a confidential mine dust health support service to help the industry’s workers access health-related information and services.

Part of these reforms include the recent introduction of industrial manslaughter laws to jail senior officers whose negligent actions may have contributed to workplace deaths, and increased maximum penalties of up to $4 million for some offences. The regulator may also issue fines without having to go to court.

Negligent senior mining officers to face five years’ imprisonment

 

New amendments to the New South Wales work health and safety laws now include gross negligence under a category one offence.

A category 1 offence is the most serious breach of responsibility by a person who has a health and safety duty, where a duty holder recklessly exposes a person to the risk of death or serious injury.

As per the legislation, category 1 offences are subject to up to a $3 million fine for corporations, $600,000 and/or five years imprisonment for an officer or individual conducting either a business or undertaking and $300,000 and/or five years’ imprisonment for individual workers.

The 2020 amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 were passed by the NSW Parliament and came to effect on June 10.

They aim to improve compliance and enforcement measures for the NSW WHS regulators.

SafeWork NSW stated that the inclusion of gross negligence under the category 1 offence makes it easier to prosecute and create a stronger incentive for duty holders to manage WHS risks.

Other amendments to the Act prohibit any insurance and indemnity arrangements to prevent duty holders from avoiding the responsibility of paying WHS fines.

The penalty for all WHS offences has also increased in the 2020 amendments, in line with the Consumer Price Index to ensure penalties retain their deterrent value.

The time in which a person can ask the WHS regulators to start a prosecution in response to a category 1 or category 2 offence has been extended from 12 to 18 months.

Category 2 offences refer to failure to comply with a health and safety duty that exposes a person to risk of death, serious injury or illness. It is punishable by a fine of $1.5 million for corporations, $300,000 for individual conducting a business or undertaking or officers and $150,000 for individual workers or others.

The Act also obliges WHS regulators to provide updates every three months to the requester until a decision to prosecute is made. This will ensure that during investigations of workplace accidents, families are kept informed and have access to an effective review mechanism for decisions not to prosecute.

Under the act, a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) can choose their course of training to avoid unnecessary delays which can affect an HSR’s ability to fulfil their role and exercise their powers.

WHS legislation provides a range of corrective processes and enforcement options, including provisional improvement notices issued by HSRs, improvement and prohibition notices and on-the-spot fines issued by the WHS regulator’s inspectors, and prosecutions that could result in heavy fines or other penalties.

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