Black lung inquiry changes its focus to port workers

IN HIS 33 years on tugboats at Hay Point south of Mackay, Kevin Paskins was never warned of the risks of breathing in coal dust.

Now, with 19 confirmed cases of black lung in Queensland, the Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis inquiry which started in October 2016, has expanded its scope from out of the pit and into the ports.

Giving evidence at a State Government black lung inquiry hearing in Mackay on Tuesday night, retired tugboat operator Mr Paskins spoke alongside other maritime workers.

It was the second day the inquiry has focussed on the port operations of the coal industry after holding a session in Gladstone on Monday.

Inquiry chairperson, Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller, said she was taking the complaints of port workers seriously.

"I wouldn't be surprised at all (if a port worker had black lung disease)," she said.

She said from the evidence of Mr Paskins there was reason to be concerned.

He told the inquiry that while on the deck of his tugboat you couldn't notice the coal dust in the day because everyone wore sunglasses.

However, without glasses at night, he could feel the coal dust go into his eyes, small dust particles that he couldn't see.

That was the concern for Ms Miller, who said black lung was caused by fine dust particles that weren't visible.

Mr Paskins said he had a chest X-ray while working at Hay Point but that was because it was discovered a tugboat he had been working on for a year had asbestos in the cabin.

He told the inquiry he had scarring on his lungs and his doctor had told him it wasn't from asbestos, which was good news to him. But he didn't ask what it was from.

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