Health control plan

All mines, quarries and petroleum sites are required to develop and implement a health control plan.

Exposure monitoring

Controlling health risks requires operators to monitor for the existence of health hazards and monitor the exposure of workers to those hazards.

Health monitoring

Some prescribed hazards require health monitoring of exposed workers to be conducted. Health monitoring should be conducted by a medical practitioner with experience or training in occupational medicine.

Guidance materials

We have developed guidance material in relation to health monitoring and health indicators:

For additional information and guidance material, visit:

Safe Work Australia

Airborne contaminants

An airborne contaminant is a fume, mist, gas, vapour, dust or other microorganism that is a potentially harmful substance to which individuals may be exposed in their working environment.

Airborne contaminants are generated during mining activities and can be a risk to a person’s health if not properly managed. Individuals can be exposed to dust on a mine site, with activities such as cutting or grinding, abrasive blasting, hauling, mucking, tipping, and crushing, having the potential to create unacceptable dust exposures if not controlled properly. Substantial dust can be generated during drilling operations, particularly if undertaken in dry conditions. Also, workers can be exposed to dust from dried spilled material or generated from tailings storage facilities, product stockpiles and during the loading of broken material and product transfer.

The aim is to reduce dust generation. The order in which controls are implemented must follow the hierarchy of controls – elimination, substitution, engineering, administrative and lastly personal protective equipment. Personal protective equipment is a last line of defence against exposure.

In NSW mines, no person is to be exposed to airborne dust that exceeds exposure standards and mines must ensure worker exposure is as low as reasonably practicable.

Silica dust

One of the most common dusts encountered on mine sites is silica dust or Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS). A significant amount of silica is present in most rocks, clays, sands, gravel and shale. Exposure to silica dust can lead to the development of lung cancer, silicosis (an irreversible scarring and stiffening of the lungs), kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Coal dust

Coal miners are at risk for respiratory diseases caused by coal mine dust. Inhaled, coal dust remains in the lungs. Long-term exposure can cause coal mine dust lung disease also known as black lung disease. Miners with combined exposures to coal and crystalline silica dust can also get mixed dust pneumoconiosis. Because it cannot be cured, prevention is critical.

Diesel emissions

Diesel exhaust emissions contain a complex mixture of gases, vapours, aerosols and particulate matter. Most mines use diesel engines in some form. Underground miners are exposed to concentrations of diesel particulate matter that are significantly higher than those in any other occupation. All mines should have a documented strategy to control diesel emissions to minimise people’s exposure to the lowest level reasonably practicable.

A recent resurgence in identified cases of coal worker pneumoconiosis and simple silicosis in the NSW mining industry have kept this issue an ongoing focus for the Resources Regulator. An extensive and state wide, targeted assessment program of work, has been ongoing since 2016. This issue remains a high priority and future assessment reports will be published as they are completed.

Consolidated reports can be found below.

Heat stress

Workers who are exposed to heat are at risk of developing heat stress, which can lead to more life-threatening conditions.

Prevention of heat stress is best accomplished through proper planning and preparation and by using common sense. Modifying the workload, re-scheduling work to cooler times of the day, engaging mechanical aids to minimise physical exertion, providing workers with access to drinking water, shaded rest areas and regular breaks will help minimise the risk of heat illness. Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to sufficiently cool itself, can be incapacitating and even fatal.

Heat-related illnesses include:

  • Heat stroke - a life-threatening illness in which the body’s internal temperature may rise above 41° C in minutes. Symptoms include dry skin, a rapid, strong pulse, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Heat exhaustion - an illness that can happen after several days of exposure to high temperatures and not enough fluids. Symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast, weak pulse. If not treated, it can turn into heat stroke.
  • Heat cramps - muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise. Cramps occur in the abdomen, arms, or legs.

Heat stress is not the only danger of working during a heatwave, as hot working conditions can cause other health and safety issues. These can include the loss of grip while handling objects due to sweaty hands; mistakes, slips or falls due to heat fatigue or fainting – possibly leading to head injuries; not following proper safe work procedures; and burns suffered from contact with hot surfaces or substances.

Read our report on heat stress and heat stress control plan.

For additional information and guidance material, visit these helpful links:

SafeWork NSW

NSW Health - Beat the Heat