Gladstone Port.
Gladstone Port. Gladstone Observer

GPC: Workers exposure to coal dust minimised

THE way workers handle coal at Gladstone Ports Corporation has been put under a spotlight after a former Abbot Point senior executive revealed his concern for port workers who may have "sleeping cases" of black lung disease.

Appearing at the Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis select committee hearings last week, BJ Davison suggested the parliamentary inquiry into black lung disease should be expanded to include port operations.

>> BIG READ: Port workers may have 'sleeping case' of disease

Mr Davison used GPC as an example where port workers could be at risk.

"Gladstone is one example where they might have 20 or 30 dozers pushing coal," he said.

"They really are working right in amongst it.

"There is... a lot of mechanical movement-large dozers pushing a lot of coal, a lot of coal getting pulverised, a lot of coal being mechanically moved by people who are right in it."

Using Abbot Point as an example of best practice, Mr Davison said coal was "picked up by a bucket wheel excavator (which was) controlled by someone in a control room 500 metres away".

At GPC, dozer operators are used to prepare and maintain "the 22 stockpiles during the unloading process" and for the "reclamation of coal".

However, a GPC spokeswoman said it had procedures in place to limit exposure to coal dust.

"During their operating times they are within an air tight air-conditioned cabin and only in extreme circumstances would they leave the cabin while on a stockpile," she said.

"A recent improvement has been the establishment of a new air-conditioned dump station control room building, which physically separates the operators from the area where coal is unloaded

"Regular site monitoring of a range of factors, including dust, is undertaken, employee health checks will continue to be made available and occupational hygienists recommendations will be implemented."

GPC monitored coal dust in 2008 and 2015 but after cases of black lung disease surfaced last year, it re-examined its "occupational monitoring results", which found "current exposures and practices did not pose a significant hazard".

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