Black Lung and Face Fit Testing

This news post aims to provide information to workers about black lung, and how face fit testing can help ensure exposure to coal dust is as low as is reasonably practicable.

What is Black Lung?

Coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP) otherwise known as black lung is caused by the inhalation of coal dust. The inhaled coal dust accumulates in the lungs causing scarring and inflammation. The disease is commonly known as black lung as over time with exposure the lung changes from its usual pink colour to a black colour.

Above: A healthy Lung, an older lung and a miner’s lung.

What are the health effects of black lung?

Black lung sufferers commonly experience shortness of breath and a chronic cough. If workers continue to be exposed to coal dust the disease leads to fibrosis which is thickening and scarring of connective tissue within the lungs. With this come a variety of life affecting symptoms such as:

  • Black mucus being coughed up
  • Problems with the heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath and a chronic cough

Like any disease, there are physical effects and then the lesser spoken about psychological effects. Psychological effects don’t just affect the sufferer, but also affect others around the victim with friends, family, co-workers and carers often affected.

Can we treat black lung?

There is no current treatment for black lung.

How can we prevent black lung?

Prevention for all hazards is done through use of the hierarchy of control, with common control measures falling into the engineering, administration and PPE areas.

Engineering controls may include dust suppression (use of water to control dust) and ventilation or extraction systems.

Administrative controls may include workplace dust monitoring, health monitoring and training.

PPE involves the use of RPE (Respirator Protective Equipment).

Face Fit Testing of Coal Workers

If RPE is to be worn then it is critical that workers are trained in its selection, use and maintenance along with correct fitting of RPE. Correct fitting can be done through the use of quantitative face fit testing. This ensures that the respirator fits the worker and that coal dust inhalation is below the exposure standard.

Above: Face Fit Testing ensures the mask seats correctly on the face.

How can Pro Safety and Training help?

Pro Safety and Training Pty Ltd offer face fit testing and respirator training around Australia. For more information call us on 1300 336 003 or contact us.

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