Changes to the workplace exposure standard for respirable coal dust

The workplace exposure standard (WES) for respirable coal dust has been reduced from 3 mg/m3 to 1.5 mg/m3.

Under the model work health and safety (WHS) laws, PCBUs must eliminate or minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable, including those associated with chemical exposure. A PCBU must also ensure that workers are not exposed to any airborne contaminant above the concentration listed in the Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants (WES list).

Respirable coal dust is an airborne contaminant found predominantly in coal mines. Workers who are exposed to coal dust, such as mine workers and those involved in coal processing and transport, can develop occupational lung diseases such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.

From 1 October 2022, the WES for coal dust (containing less than five per cent quartz) (respirable dust) halved from an eight hour time weighted average of 3 mg/m3 to 1.5 mg/m3. The WES for coal dust has been reduced to better protect workers from the adverse health effects associated with breathing in coal dust.

Download the revised WES list.

The new WES was agreed by WHS ministers following an expert review commissioned by Safe Work Australia. 

The revised WES takes effect when implemented in a jurisdiction. WHS ministers agreed for most jurisdictions this will be no later than 1 October 2022. Contact your work health and safety or mining regulator for information on the laws that apply in your state and territory.

Go to the Coal dust page for information about the change.

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