CFMEU: New case of Black Lung disease shows crisis is escalating

Image credit: CFMEU

The CFMEU has confirmed the 15th case of Black Lung disease in the country since its re-emergence at coal mines in Queensland last year.

Image credit: CFMEU
Image credit: CFMEU

The miner, whose identity remains unknown, was diagnosed with the disease by the internationally recognised Black Lung disease expert Dr Bob Cohen, despite originally being cleared on two separate occasions by nominated medical assessors and radiologists.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President, Stephen Smyth said the new case only confirmed the union’s fears that health professionals assigned to review x-rays of the mining workforce were not qualified for the task.

“It is unbelievable that this disease was missed twice by Australian health professionals in less than a year. Even when Black Lung disease expert Dr Bob Cohen told them it was there they still couldn’t identify it.  That’s a nominated medical assessor, and a radiologist who have missed this disease and let a worker go back into dangerous and dusty conditions underground,” Mr Smyth said.

“This failure shows that the Black Lung crisis is escalating and why coalmine workers have lost all confidence in the health and regulatory systems that are supposed to be there to keep them safe.”

He said while the union was aware of more cases of Black Lung disease – especially from coalmine workers not willing to risk their jobs and livelihoods by coming forward – failures in the system were also deflating confirmed cases.

“This coalmine worker had two tests done in 12-months, and both were cleared by Australian health professionals.  He also would have had tests done when he started working in Queensland mines, and x-rays done every five years since then.  Yet, he has no idea how long he has been living with Black Lung,” Mr Smyth added.

“When the system is still failing to identify Black Lung disease despite multiple checks then we still just don’t know how many cases there could be or how many workers are living with the disease but are still going to work each day.”

The disease, which was thought to have been eradicated decades ago, is caused by a build-up of coal dust in the lungs due to inadequate ventilation and health standards in coalmines.