Mining operators must systematically manage health risks in the workplace to ensure the wellbeing and safety of their workers and visitors to the worksite in order to comply with their legislative requirements.
Traditionally health issues have been considered less important than safety issues when addressing the risks facing employees in the mining industry. While safety often presents the most immediate risk, the long-term health of employees is of no less importance.
Contemporary priority health issues
The Mine Safety Advisory Council has identified seven priority health issues that the NSW mining and extractives industry need to take preventive action on to reduce risks to workers.
These priorities are:
- respirable dust (e.g. coal and silica) and diesel particulate
- fatigue and hours of work
- safe design of plant and equipment
- musculoskeletal disorders
- bullying and harassment
- wellbeing (mental health, lifestyle factors)
- systematic health hazard control plans.
Lead health indicator report
The Lead health indicator report was produced for the Health Management Advisory Committee to examine lead health indicators. The report details the outcomes from a telephone survey of mines and quarries about actions they are taking to address priority health issues including noise, fatigue, dust, diesel particulate and musculoskeletal disorders. You can read the reports on the Mine Safety Advisory Council website:
Report on workers' compensation claims data for lag health indicators
A report examining 10 years of workers' compensation claims data for lag health indicators was produced in 2011 and 2013 for the Health Management Advisory Committee. It examined data on three indicators:
- manual handling
- falls from same level
- noise induced hearing loss.
You can read copies of the report on the Mine Safety Advisory Council website:
- WorkCover claims data: analysis of lag health indicators - 2011
- WorkCover claims data: analysis of lag health indicators - 2013
Read more about the Mine Safety Advisory Council.
Health monitoring means monitoring of a person to identify changes in the person’s health status because of exposure to certain substances.
Health monitoring may include:
- consultation, for example, answering questions regarding previous occupational and medical history or lifestyle, for example dietary, smoking and drinking habits and discussing with the worker how this may affect their health
- a physical examination, for example skin checks or a spirometry (lung function) test
- clinical tests, for example, urine or blood samples
Safe Work Australia has a range of guidance materials in relation to health monitoring:
- Health monitoring for exposure to hazardous chemicals – guide for persons conducting a business or undertaking
- Health monitoring for exposure to hazardous chemicals – guide for workers
- Health monitoring for exposure to hazardous chemicals – guide for medical practitioners
- Hazardous chemicals requiring health monitoring
Airborne contaminants are generated during mining activities and can be a risk to health if not properly managed. Mine Safety has developed a factsheet on Airborne contaminants [PDF, 95 KB] in mining with information about the health risks, elimination and control, and your obligations.
Coal Services also has a range of publications on airborne contaminants including:
- Prevention of pneumoconiosis in NSW, which contains information for workers on pneumoconiosis, health monitoring, dust monitoring and mitigation, longwall dust suppression plans and the Standing Dust Committee
- Protecting against airborne dust exposure in coal mines, which promotes a better understanding of the health effects and control of airborne dust.