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Dust Duty

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Meet Matthew Hall, the Coal Services ‘Dustie’ for the North West region.

If you’re not familiar with a dustie (officially called a Coal Industry Act Inspector), their main role is monitoring NSW coal miners’ airborne dust exposure levels. Coal Services (formally known as the Joint Coal Board) has been involved in assessing and protecting NSW mine workers from dust exposure since its creation in 1946. 

Coal Industry Act Inspectors are an integral part of the NSW coal industry dust monitoring program, the aim of which is to determine whether dust levels at coal mines are maintained below the workplace exposure standard (WES). Regular onsite dust monitoring and analysis provides essential data for mines to review the effectiveness of dust control measures and identify areas or tasks that potentially present a respiratory health risk for workers. 

Essentially, the most important part of a dustie’s job is protecting coal mine workers,” says Matt. “When I’m out on a site my sole focus is monitoring work environments with the aim of keeping workers safe.”  

Matt says that for a dustie there’s no such thing as a typical day at work. “I might be visiting a longwall at an underground mine,fitting the workers with dust monitors and then observing them as they work. Then the next day I might be at an open cut mine collecting samples. This variety is one of things I most enjoy about the job.”

Whilst you might think that a dustie’s job is all about collecting, analysing and collating dust samples, Matt explains that there is much more to it. At each site he needs to look at numerous factors all specific to that site, such as what type of mining is being conducted, what ventilation arrangements are in place, what specific tasks have the potential to leave workers exposed to dust, personal positioning and personal protective equipment (PPE) use. 

In addition to Coal Industry Act Inspectors, Coal Services employs Occupational Hygienists who specialize in the assessment and control of a wide range of workplace exposure hazards. 

“We deal with a lot more than just dust. Workers can be exposed to other airborne contaminants and hazards such as noise, diesel exhaust emissions, gases, welding fumes, vibration and thermal stress. What’s more, all of our services are available to all industries, not just the mining industry. We are also available for guidance and education talks on anything from PPE to exposure standards to discussions on industry best practice.”

Before Matt started in the role, there was no dedicated dustie for the North West region. The inception of the role is demonstrative of the growth and opportunities the region has been experiencing in recent years.

With over 13 years’ experience in the coal mining industry and a Bachelor’s Degree in Health & Safety from Newcastle University, Matt is already highly qualified. But he’s decided to take those qualifications one step further.

“I’m very excited to be starting a Master’s Degree in Occupational Hygiene next year. As this district continues to expand, a qualified Occupational Hygienist that is based locally will be a great asset to the area. This additional qualification will complement the work I am already doing. Because when it comes to protecting workers, you can never know or do too much.”

Matt pictured left.

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