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NIOSH Expands Coal Worker Health Surveillance Program

Posted in on Thu, Aug 7, 2014

From NIOSH –

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is taking an important step in expanding the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program with today’s publication of an interim final rule in the Federal Register (https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-18336). This rule expands the existing health surveillance program from covering only underground miners to also covering surface miners. It also adds a respiratory symptoms assessment and a type of lung function testing called spirometry to the tests provided.  Miners will now be provided with spirometry and chest x-ray testing when they first enter into mining and then periodically after that.  The health surveillance program is a longstanding NIOSH responsibility under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.  Miners who have evidence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, a type of disease caused by coal mine dust, can request special measures to decrease their future dust exposure.

NIOSH is actively engaged in many research and public health efforts to prevent respiratory disease caused by coal mine dust.  For example, NIOSH developed and validated the use of a new device to measure dust exposures in real time called the continuous personal dust monitor.  Going forward, NIOSH will also have the responsibility to approve these monitors.

“Today’s publication of an interim final rule marks a distinct improvement in the protection of the nation’s coal miners,” said NIOSH Director John Howard. “We look forward to improving exposure monitoring through the deployment of the continuous personal dust monitor, and expanding miners’ health surveillance including radiography and spirometry.”

The action to expand the program is in response to new requirements for health surveillance in the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) final rule for controlling coal mine dust exposure.

Coal mining-related respiratory diseases can have a significant impact on the health and quality of life for miners. Depending on what is in the coal mine dust that is inhaled and the part of the lung that is affected, coal miners may develop several different types of respiratory diseases including pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For more information about the NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/surveillance/ords/CoalWorkersHealthSurvProgram.html.

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