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. This program also 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. It focuses on preventing early coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung, from progressing to a disabling disease. The CWHSP provides:
- Periodic lung function testing (called spirometry)
- Respiratory health assessment questionnaires
- Extended health surveillance
These services are offered to surface, underground, and contract coal miners, as required by the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) rule for respirable coal mine dust exposureexternal icon.
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:
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect yourself and others.
- Stay 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you.
- Get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
Mining operators, contractors, and NIOSH-approved health facilities:
As local pandemic conditions improve, healthcare facilities in some states and localities may be resuming elective services. In view of this, NIOSH-approved chest radiography facilities may 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.
COVID-19 and Routine Spirometry:
NIOSH has updated its recommendations to state that spirometry testing, as part of the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, can resume if recommended infection prevention and control precautions are implemented, guidance from state and local health departments is followed, and information about community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is considered. Go to Routine Spirometry as part of the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program for more information.
- Best Practices for Dust Control in Coal Mining. Second Edition.
- Prevent Black Lung Disease: Why Black Lung Screenings are Important for Coal Miners – Infographic
- NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program Fact Sheet
- Coal’s Deadly Dust – Frontline & NPR Investigateexternal icon
- Enhanced Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program Fact Sheet
The Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977external icon authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to provide coal miner autopsies and to pay for their submission to NIOSH. Please refer to Specification for Medical Examinations of Coal Minersexternal icon Subpart Autopsiesexternal icon for information on payment for autopsy, autopsy specifications, and procedures for obtaining payment. At this time, funding is not available to pay for autopsies.
For any questions about autopsies, please email CWHSP at CWHSP@cdc.gov.