March 17, 2020
Mining is a multinational industry and companies must be held to the highest standards when it comes to dust exposure for workers.
A global conference on occupational dust disease, hosted by our Queensland District on the Gold Coast in February, heard from medical professionals, mineworkers, union representatives and government regulators from around Australia and the world.
Queensland District President Stephen Smyth told participants that “Companies like Rio Tinto, BHP and Anglo operate across borders.
“Dust like coal and silica have the same effect on workers’ lungs wherever they are, but these companies don’t take it upon themselves to implement best practice across their operations – rather they fall back to the lowest standards they can get away with.
“Coal dust has the same effect on mineworkers’ lungs whether they are in Australia, the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan or Russia. Why shouldn’t the same dust exposure standards be in place?”
Participants heard about the latest medical research into diseases including silicosis and coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, case studies of disease in the workforce, government regulation of mine dust and the fight for justice and compensation for victims.
Watch some highlights of the conference:
The conference resolved to support a dedicated global campaign to fight for prevention and treatment of dust related lung disease.
“The conference believes it is imperative that union members and their allies from countries around the world share health and safety information and best practices so that global unions may fight to stop the scourge of dust diseases and protect workers health and safety,” said a resolution endorsed by participants.
“We shared an incredible amount of information,” said Mr Smyth. “A clear theme from the conference is that mineworkers only win improvements in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of deadly dust disease by fighting. History shows that if we take our eyes off the ball, protections are wound back.
“This inaugural Cut the Dust global conference, which will be repeated every two years, is about making sure we never take our eyes off the ball again.”