Underground Miners Lungs and related Occupational Health Issues in Australia. By Emeritus Professor Odwyn Jones AO FAusIMM
In writing this paper it became apparent to the author how slowly the Australian mining industry reacts to developments in the field of occupational health and safety and the subsequent implementation of more stringent occupational health standards adopted elsewhere and in particular North America.
If, for example, we address the situation prevailing in the field of dust control in mines we know that long-term exposure to respirable dusts, including coal and/or rock dust can cause debilitating lung diseases. Consequently health authorities and industry regulators have defined various exposure limits in an attempt to safeguard the health of workers.
Whilst the mining industry is particularly prone to dusty environments, underground coal mines have in particular been facing increasing challenges due to increasing volumes of coal production from power loading longwall faces and continuous mining panels. Increased coal production results in more inhalable (< 100 microns) and respirable (<10 microns) dust. It is therefore not surprising to see increasing incidence of Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis (CWP) or Black Lung disease occurring in both in the US and Australia.
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