Percy Verrall was diagnosed with black lung disease in 2015. He was the first Australian diagnosed with the disease in 30 years. The latest case — a central Queensland miner — wishes to remain anonymous.
Percy Verrall was diagnosed with black lung disease in 2015. He was the first Australian diagnosed with the disease in 30 years. The latest case — a central Queensland miner — wishes to remain anonymous.

Black Lung: Inquiry finds 'massive systemic failure'

UPDATE: AN INQUIRY into new black lung cases has described a "massive systemic failure" in the system designed to protect coal workers.

The Queensland Parliamentary inquiry into black lung's interim report has found generations of politicians, public servants, doctors, unionists and mine operators failed to realise the disease remained an issue.

The report also requests the impacts of coal dust on port workers, rail worker and power station workers be considered in their report. 

The report said doctors undertaking coal miner health scheme checked did not necessarily live near a mine or understand what they were looking for.

The inquiry heard some x-rays that showed signs of black lung were not properly read and some miners that showed signs of the disease and could return underground for years.

"Clearly, (black lung) was never eradiated in Queensland. It did not 're-emerge' in 2015 but was merely reidentified, after more than 30 years of responsible Queensland's authorities failing to look for it or properly identify it," the report said.

"The evidence so far suggests that there has been a massive systemic failure across the entirety of the regulatory and health systems intended to protect coal industry workers."

The report said it is considering making recommendations to change the acceptable level of coal dust in mines, the use of real time dust monitors and regulations to ensure qualified experts read miner's x-rays and chest tests.

The committee requested the final report be delayed until May 29, 2017. 

EARLIER: A REPORT into the re-emergence of black lung will be released today.

The Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into black lung will release its interim report on how the disease re-emerged after no cases were detected for three decades.

In a committee meeting on Wednesday morning a former Queensland health and safety commissioner said the absence of cases was considered an "enigma" instead of setting off alarms.

Former Queensland commissioner for mine health and safety Paul Harrison told the committee he spoke to American experts who questioned why Queensland had no cases of the disease in decades when there was a breakout of cases in the United States.
 

Tugboat worker for 33 years Kevin Paskins at the Black Lung Inquest.
Tugboat worker for 33 years Kevin Paskins at the Black Lung Inquest. Campbell Gellie

There has been 19 confirmed black lung cases in Queensland since December 2015 and more unconfirmed.

Last week international expert Bob Cohen told the committee the fact no cases were detected in three decades should have set off "alarm bells".

But Mr Harrison said Queensland believed it had an excellent record on black lung.

"It was just an enigma that we had no cases here," he said.

"Some suggested it might be a different type of coal, some suggested it might have been different mining techniques."

Mr Harrison said he had a conversation with the University of Kentucky about researching into why there appeared to be no cases in Queensland while there were many in the United States. But the research did not occur.

Mr Harrison said industry bodies and unions scuttled two separate plans for a "dust database" health scheme reform. The inquiry heard this was as both believed black lung was eliminated and there was no need for change.

More to come.


-ARM NEWSDESK


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