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New health surveillance and biological monitoring guideline

29 October, 2008

Resources Safety has released a new guideline on risk-based health surveillance and biological monitoring to ensure the best possible safety environment for workers in the State’s mining industry.

“This guideline will assist mining companies to meet their statutory requirements relating to biological monitoring and the additional health surveillance required when employees are exposed to hazardous substances,” said Resources Safety Health Management Director Mike Rowe.

“Particular attention is paid to toxic metals being mined or present as significant ore contaminants in Western Australia, or used in mining operations.”

The guideline focuses on how to measure employees’ exposures to chemicals using biological monitoring and how this monitoring will allow an assessment of whether the exposures have negatively impacted on employee health.

“Another important part of the guideline outlines how to implement risk-based health surveillance to address any issues that may arise following exposure to a specific chemical,” Rowe said.

Exposure to some minerals mined in WA, or present as contaminants in mined ores, can cause serious health problems including cancer, reproductive effects, kidney or liver damage and neurological damage.

Any mining or exploration company mining, concentrating, processing or handling toxic materials or hazardous chemicals is required to identify, assess and monitor employees’ exposures and the effects of these hazards.

The guideline outlines the step-by-step processes for these requirements, including pre-placement assessments of workers prior to undertaking high exposure risk work.

It also outlines the process of monitoring the uptake of hazardous substances that may have entered the body following ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the skin.

“The over-riding goal of any exposure monitoring or health surveillance program is to identify hazards that employees may face while undertaking their daily duties,” Rowe said.

“Where exposure measurements indicate levels that may impact on health, control measures must be implemented promptly to reduce these levels.

“Risk-based health surveillance should be reviewed regularly and whenever conditions change, and control measures revised until exposure levels are as low as reasonably practicable and no adverse health affects are detected.”

The guideline also contains a comprehensive list of appendices containing links to specific heavy metals, legislative provisions, exposure standards and control measures.

The guideline is endorsed by the Mining Industry Advisory Committee (MIAC) and is available for download at

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