Generally, the mining industry is considered risky and unsafe. Fortunately, the introduction of strict safety regulations and protocols have helped the industry see a drop in the fatality rate. One of the requirements by the Queensland Coal Mine Workers’ Health Scheme (CMWHS) is that each employer should have a Nominated Medical Advisor (NMA) on board.
One of the critical roles for the NMA is to oversee medical assessments of employees as well as carry out regular occupational drug testing. The NMA does not treat but plays a critical role in the prevention and early detection of any work-related illnesses. Some of the commonest health risks that make an NMA a critical component of the mining industry are listed below.
Inhalation of dust is a common concern for miners as it can cause what is commonly known as black lung or miner’s lung. The occupation lung disease varies in severity, but symptoms include scarred lung tissue and shortness of breath.
Mining firms are expected to come up with dust control plans, while supervisors ensure dust control measures are in working order before each shift. Regular medical screening and surveillance by a nominated medical advisor are essential as a pro-active measure.
As expected, the mining industry is a noisy environment with constant hammering and drilling by heavy machinery. This scenario increases the risk of developing hearing damage. While an employee can get used to the loud noises, the damage done occurs very slowly.
Exposure to excessive noise leads to sleep disturbances, ringing in the ears, concentration problems, and even permanent loss of hearing. To protect your employees, it’s critical you evaluate their working conditions as well as their noise exposure. One way includes using vibration dampeners and absorptive panels to reduce noise from the source.
Working with an NMA helps in monitoring your employees as they work. The NMA also conducts exit medicals to cover you from future medical complications on termination of an employment contract. Some of these tests include hearing assessments, spirometry, vision assessments, and back assessments.
Whole body vibration
The more time spent on vibrating machinery increases the chances of developing one form or another of injury. While some vibration is fine, they can be dangerous especially on uneven surfaces. Symptoms of whole-body vibration include vision impairment, cardiovascular changes, and musculoskeletal disorders.
Again, the reduction of the exposure is the first step your mining company should take. This includes minimising material or goods transportation and replacing your unmanned machinery with remote control ones. An NMA is trained in the classification of injury to ensure that an employee can or cannot continue with their duties.
If the risks involved are unavoidable, supervisors can then use the report from the NMA to reduce the amount of time an employee uses a machine. Further, training is critical and the symptoms of back pain in your employees should be closely monitored and evaluated.
A Nominated Medical Advisor from Resile will identify potential occupational health problems and refer your employees to their own doctors. The NMAs are consultant occupation physicians who understand the working condition of underground and open-cut coal mines. In addition, these physicians make use of an electronic management system to ensure your company complies with CMWHS periodic assessment requirements.