On 23 August 2017, the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation (Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (Qld) commenced on 31 August 2017.

The Act improves compensation protections and entitlements for coal workers with ‘black lung’ (or a form of pneumoconiosis) by amending a number of Acts including the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) (the WCR Act). In effect, the WCR Act now recognises the broad spectrum of coalmine dust lung diseases for the purpose of Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme established under the WCR Act.

The amendments have several implications for both employers and employees in the coal mining industry.

Key changes for employers include:

  • Costs to be passed on to employers – if an employer engaged a former coal worker to work in an industry that deals with coal before 1 January 2017, WorkCover is entitled to retrospectively charge an additional premium on the insurance policy of the employer. The amount of this additional premium is to be determined by what WorkCover considers necessary.

Key changes for employees include:

  • Free medical examination - employees that have concerns about coal workers’ pneumoconiosis can access free medical examination through the workers’ compensation scheme. Workers can apply to their insurer for approval to undergo a lung disease examination unless, on consideration of the application, the insurer finds the worker was not exposed to coal dust for at least 6 months or that the exposure occurred outside of Queensland. Importantly, the cost of the examination will be borne by the insurer.
  • Lump sum compensation - the introduction of an additional lump sum compensation amount up to $120,000.00 for coal workers that have been diagnosed with, including silicosis or asbestosis.
  • Additional compensation for disease progression - workers diagnosed with a form of pneumoconiosis who have previously received compensation are also able to claim further lump sum compensation in circumstances where their condition progressively deteriorates.

Why this may be important to you:

  • for employees: the introduction of a lump sum compensation amount payable to coal workers diagnosed with a form of pneumoconiosis; and
  • for employers: the WCR Act permits WorkCover to pass the costs of this scheme onto relevant employers through their insurance premiums.

A copy of the Act can be found here.