COAL WORKERS' HEALTH SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM

“The first priority and concern of all in the coal or mining industry must be the health and safety of our most precious resource, the miner.”

(Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, amended 1977)

The NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP) studies the causes and effects of respiratory diseases related to coal mine dust exposure and provides vital health information to coal miners through health screenings and surveillance.

The CWHSP was established by the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (amended in 1997)external icon to prevent early coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung, from progressing to a disabling disease. As required by this act and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) rule for respirable coal mine dust exposureexternal icon, the program offers periodic lung function testing (called spirometry), respiratory health assessment questionnaires, and extended health surveillance for surface, underground, and contract coal miners.

Mobile screening van with line of people out front

2020 Black Lung Screenings

Special Notice

Coal Miners:
Black lung and other chronic lung diseases associated with coal mining put you at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Take protecting yourself seriously. If you have a pre-existing condition, such as black lung, or any lung disease, or if you smoke, it is very important that you follow the guidance provided by the CDC for stopping the spread and reducing your risk of COVID-19. This includes:

  • Stay home if possible
  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid close contact (6 feet or about two arms length) with people as much as possible
  • Wear a cloth face cover over your mouth and nose, if possible, when around others
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces

Mining operators, contractors, and NIOSH-approved health facilities:
As local pandemic conditions change, healthcare facilities in many states and localities may be resuming elective services. In view of this, NIOSH-approved chest radiography facilities may now consider resuming services after consulting with their state and local health departments for guidance on when elective medical outpatient visits, including for chest radiography, may resume in their area. We also recommend that chest radiography facilities follow guidance from their state and local health departments and the CDC on infection control measures to protect patients, staff, and others entering facilities.

Recently, the American Thoracic Society and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine released guidance for resuming pulmonary function testing when the pandemic lessens. According to the guidance, the risk of conducting services, like spirometry, for routine worker screening likely outweighs the benefit that the worker receives from the testing. Therefore, until you receive further guidance from NIOSH, spirometry should not be conducted as part of any miner’s participation in the CWHSP.

Page last reviewed: February 19, 2020