Investigation report – dust pneumoconiosis and complicated mass fibrosis
A reported case of mixed dust pneumoconiosis and complicated mass fibrosis in a NSW coal mine worker
Published by NSW Department of Planning and Environment, NSW Resources Regulator
Title: A reported case of mixed dust pneumoconiosis and complicated mass fibrosis in a NSW coal mine worker
First published: August 2018
Authorised by: Director Major Investigations Unit
On 19 December 2016, NSW Coal Services Pty Ltd notified the regulator that Worker X was diagnosed
with mixed dust pneumoconiosis. Worker X retired in 2014 after more than 30 years working in the open
cut coal mining industry.
Worker X was employed at various open cut operations in NSW. The onset of Worker X’s disease was
rapid, with his health deteriorating significantly between 2015 and 2016.
This caused Worker X to seek medical assistance from his general practitioner. Worker X then contacted
the CFMEU and subsequently Coal Services for assistance.
On 16 January 2017, a formal investigation was commenced by the MIU.
The MIU contacted all mining work places where Worker X had worked during his career.
On 22 March 2017, the MIU published an information release about the investigation.
The MIER investigation activities included:
? conducting an interview with Worker X
? identifying the mining workplaces where Worker X was employed
? identifying the timeframes Worker X was employed at those workplaces
? issuing statutory notices to all mine operators of those workplaces to produce information
? obtaining Coal Services dust monitoring records and data for those workplaces
? analysing information and records obtained during the investigation
? identifying controls that may have prevented the exposure from occurring
? engaging an Occupational and Industrial Hygienist to provide a report to the regulator in
relation to this matter.
? referring the Occupational and Industrial Hygienist’s report to NSW Coal Services to assist
them with their duties under the Coal Industry Act 2001.
? Analysing autopsy results following the death of Worker X.
Following the death of Worker X, an autopsy was performed by a qualified Pathologist. The autopsy
results found no evidence of black pneumoconiosis. Rather, the results suggest an alternative diagnosis
of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) may be likely.
IPF is a debilitating and life limiting disease that causes irreversible scarring of the lung tissue. The
cause of IPF is not known. The scarring continues to worsen over time, making it difficult to breathe. The
diagnosis of IPF can be challenging because it can be confused with other lung conditions. 7
No evidence was identified to support a finding that Worker X was exposed to hazardous levels of
atmospheric contaminant (silica or coal dust) at any of his workplaces. Airborne dust level data at the
workplaces was found to be generally less than the specified regulatory exposure standards in effect at
the time. As such, no breaches of the work health and safety legislation were identified during the
The Occupational Hygienist’s findings and the autopsy results support the conclusion that Worker X had
a spontaneous, also known as idiopathic, form of lung disease known as IPF, and not mixed dust
pneumoconiosis as first diagnosed.
Therefore, based on the available information and in the absence of further medical evidence, the Regulator does not consider Worker X’s death to be workplace related.
Read the full report here.