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Return to work guidelines for mine dust lung diseases now available

Best practice

Mine dust lung disease (MDLD) is a broad term used to identify a range of work-related lung diseases, such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and silicosis, caused by exposure to harmful levels of respirable dust at mines and quarries.

There are many roles within the mining and quarrying industry that are suitable for workers who have been diagnosed with a MDLD to return to work where their health and safety can be managed with the right precautions.

Familiarise yourself with the expert medical guidelines (PDF, 0.32 MB) which are now available, to assist you decide on safe return to work, including what levels of dust exposure are appropriate for workers with disease and ongoing health monitoring of workers. The guidelines will also assist you to take all reasonable steps to provide a worker with rehabilitation and understand when they can safety return to work, to what roles and the environments they can work in.

Why this is important

Returning to work with a MDLD is different to traditional return to work arrangements. This is because a worker with a MDLD will require ongoing and periodic health monitoring as well as additional health and safety measures to mitigate dust exposure and to understand these measures are working effectively.

The expert medical guidelines provide a best practice and evidenced-based framework taking into account the individual circumstances of the worker’s MDLD, including the severity of their disease and the best outcome that can be achieved.

The guidelines are best used as a tool to facilitate discussion about return to work between a worker and their family, and their employer, insurer and medical specialists. It is also important to recognise any decision about return to work is made in consultation between these parties and under the guidance of a respiratory physician.

The guidelines do not change existing rehabilitation and return to work obligations or health and safety duties that apply to workers, employers, mine operators and workers’ compensation insurers.

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