WORKERS’ compensation changes have been passed in the most recent parliamentary sitting, with the Queensland Government seek to address a perceived gap in protections for those with black lung and associated dust diseases.

The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation (Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis) and Other Legislation Bill 2017 was passed in Queensland Parliament last Wednesday, 23 August 2017.

As reported previously in an AMMA news update the coal workers’ pneumoconiosis bill increased its scope following recommended changes as part of the Bill introduced into Queensland Parliament by Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations Grace Grace on 14 June, 2017.

Of immediate impact, once enacted, would be the ability for WorkCover to charge an additional premium where an employer had, prior to 1 January 2017 engaged a former coal worker in an industry that involved dealing with coal. This would be an amount WorkCover considers necessary towards covering the costs of administering chapter 6A (interim medical exams).

The legislation removes the ability of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to grant a stay of decision that is subject to appeal under the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003.

Workers with the disease will also be able to reopen their statutory claim to receive further lump sum compensation if their condition deteriorates.

Formerly settled claims would also be allowed to be re-opened for those experiencing changing symptoms, and workers diagnosed with pneumoconiosis (including from coal mining), silicoisis or asbestosis from working in a dust environment, would be eligible for an additional lump sum compensation if their condition deteriorates. This is predicated on a settlement of additional claims not factoring in such deterioration.

The new laws introduce a medical examination process for retired or former coal workers with suspected coal workers’ pneumoconiosis or a coal mine dust lung disease. An amendment was moved prior to the passage of the Bill clarifying that costs for attending medical appointments (i.e travel) would be borne by the employer or their insurer.

The Bill also amends the Industrial Relations Act 2016 to clarify that the power to grant a stay under the Industrial Relations Act 2016 does not apply to an appeal under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003. This in effect means that where a workers’ compensation applicant is awarded compensation, the payment of such compensation will not be delayed by any appeal of that decision.

Changes to the electrical licencing framework have been amended through the Electrical Safety Act 2002, allowing the electrical safety regulator to obtain information about the competency of applicants for an electrical work licence.

An existing electrical work licence holder would be directed by the Electrical Licensing Committee to undertake a competency reassessment where there are reasonable grounds to believe the licensee may not be competent.

The Electrical Safety Regulator would also have the capacity to immediately suspend an electrical worker’s licence in specific and extremely serious circumstances in the interests of protecting the safety of others.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 has also been amended to establish an ‘affected persons committee’ involving injured workers and families of persons who have died as a result of work incidents, and to provide advice to the Minister.

The role of the Committee is to provide advice on information and support needs for persons affected by a workplace incident that involves death or serious injury or illness.

Any members with questions or feedback are asked to contact Sarah Cerche, AMMA’s Head of Policy at [email protected]