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Black lung rears its ugly head

New research pointing to a resurgence of black lung disease among US coal miners has raised concerns about the potential for the disease to reappear in the Hunter.
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A case study published in theDecember 15 edition of the US-basedCentres for Disease Control and Prevention journalfocused on 60 patients at a radiographic practice in Kentuckywho had symptoms ofblack lung, also known as progressive massive fibrosis.

“Surveillance data have indicated a resurgence in PMF in recent years, but the cases described in this report represent a large cluster not discovered through routine surveillance,” the journal article said.

The disease is caused by overexposure to respirable coal mine dust and leads to inflammation and fibrosis in the lungs.

The incidence of black lunghas fallen in recent decades with the introduction of stringent safety measures.

While several instances of the disease have been reported in Queensland in recent years, no detections have been made in NSW.

It was suggested Kentucky black lung cluster may have reflected the reluctance to investigate early symptoms.

“Some miners might have chosen to not seek radiographs or other health-related information during the earlier stages of their career to avoid threatening their ability to continue working in the industry,” the journal said.

The potential for the disease to occur in NSW was the subject of the NSW Minerals Council’s 2016 Health and community conference.

An updated version of the Protecting Against Airborne Dust Exposure in Coal Mines was also launched.

Coal Services chief executive Lucy Flemming said NSW standards relating to black lung were set by four state government standing orders that were designed to minimise dust, enforce control techniques and monitor worker health.

“The robust nature of the legislation and diligence of the dust monitoring and environmental standards in NSW coal mines has allowed us to help protect mine workers’ health and keep lung diseases such as pneumoconiosis at bay,” Ms Flemming said.

Matt Stieger bounces back from Japan Tour Q-School disappointment with win at The Jack

NARRABRI’S Matt Stieger had the pain of narrowly missing qualification for the Japan Tour eased with victory at theJack Newton Celebrity Classic on Wednesday at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.
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Stieger hits back at The Jack | Photos TweetFacebook Jack Newton Celebrity Classic 2016 | PHOTOSThe 25-year-old shot back-to-back rounds of 69 for four under and a one-stroke win over Charlestown’s Jake Higginbottom, who led with a 67 after day one. Next best was Waratah’s Leigh McKechnie at one under.

Jack Newton and tournament winner Matt Stieger on Wednesday. Picture: Supplied

Stieger said the $10,000 first prize on Wednesday was “a greatChristmas present and would help pay for a few” after hisdisappointment at the Japan Tour Q-School just two weeks ago.

“I played on the Challenge Tour over there this year and then went to qualifying for the main tour and missed out by two shots, which when you playsix rounds, it’s tough to take,” Stieger said.

“But that’s golf, I guess. I came here with no expectations, so it was nice to get the win.”

It was Stieger’s fifth appearance at the Jack Newton tournament, which doubles as an end-of-season party for many of Australia’s professional golfers,but it was thefirst time he has been in the mix for the victory.

“I’ve only just come back from the Japan Tour school, so it was good to come here,relax andcatch up with everyone,” he said.

The 2011 Australian Amateur champion and 2012 NSW PGA winnerplanned toheadback to JapanforChallenge Tour events in June-July.

The celebrity section winners were former world longboard surfing champion Josh Constable and rugby league caller Frank Barrett on plus seven.

Wellington interim coach Chris Greenacre is focused on their next game, against Newcastle, rather than retaining his job.

Wellington interim boss Chris Greenacre insists there’s nothing but Newcastle on his mind as he enters his third game in charge.
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Wellington co-coaches Des Buckingham, left, and Chris Greenacre.

Greenacre, alongside co-coach Des Buckingham, has obtained four points from six in his two A-League games against Central Coast and Western Sydney. Replacing ex-boss Ernie Merrick a fortnight ago, the British duo are both being considered for the permanent top job, as a pair and individually.

Greenacre, whose side will travel to Newcastle on Christmas Day for their Boxing Day clash with the Jets, said he had no interest in speculation about the job.

He and Buckingham were simply keen to get their side in shape for a tough match against the fifth-placed Novocastrians.

“The media circus surrounding it, I’m fully aware of it but it’s just not me and I’ve got a job to do alongside Des,” Greenacre said. “It’s the Jets on the horizon, and that’s the nature of it.”

Recent reports from New Zealand have also linked at least three unnamed European coaches to the Nix job.

Others in line for the role, which is now unlikely to be filled before Christmas, include Auckland City boss Ramon Tribulietx, Mark Rudan and Luciano Trani.

The coaches’ decision to both change team formation and re-sign striker Shane Smeltz suggests they’ve been given a chance to stamp their own mark.

Greenacre said it was always in the club’s plans, including during the reign of Merrick, to hold funds over for January acquisitions.

Smeltz will be eligible to play for his new side, where he previously scored 21 goals in 39 A-League games, from January 5 against Perth.

“If I was a coach coming in, signing Smeltz would be a welcome addition, I think,” Greenacre said.

“You always need goalscorers in your team.”

The 35-year-old Smeltz, for his part, said he didn’t need any assurances about the future Nix coach before signing on the dotted line.

He was keen to contribute to the side’s A-League run-in after a short stint in Malaysian football for Kedah FA.

“Going forward, I’m signing with the football club,” Smeltz said.

“I wasn’t too concerned with what’s happened in the past.”

Hunter pools more likely to be unsafe than safe

NOT COMPLIANT: Hunter pool fences are overwhelmingly failed on first inspection. Common reasons for failure are gates that don’t self-lock or self-close, climbable objects outside the pool fence and not clearly displaying a CPR sign.More than half of Hunter pools are failing their first safety inspection, a survey of local governments has shown.
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Figures obtained by theNewcastle Heraldshowthat Maitland pools are the least compliant in the region, with 86 per cent of pool fences failed after first inspection sinceJuly, 2016.

The rate remains high in Cessnock, with more than 71 per cent of inspected fences foundnon-compliant during the 2015/16 financial year.

Non-compliance rates were significantly lower in Lake Macquarie, where there was an even split between pass and fail rates.

However, Royal Life Saving has named Lake Macquarie as a NSW “blackspot” for backyard pool drownings in the 0-5 age bracket.

Mayor Kay Fraser said Lake Macquarie was“proactive” in pool safety, with “a range of awareness and safety campaigns” being rolled out across the local government area. She said council wasworking with Royal Life Saving to help reduce backyard pool drownings.

Newcastle was the only council that returned a positive compliance rate, with more than 57 per cent of pools being passed.

Port Stephens Council were unable to provide conclusive figures, but said in a statement that a high percentage of pools were failed.

All councils provided mostly the same reasons for non-compliance, with faulty gates being the most common reasonfor failing, including latches that did not self-lock or self-close.

Other pools were found non-compliant because of climbable objects, such as pot plants or barbecues near the outside of the fence. A CPR sign not clearly displayed in the pool area was another common reason for failure.

When told about high rates of non-compliance, Kids Alive –Do the Five founder Laurie Lawrence said he was “shocked”.

He reminded pool owners that“the gate is the weakest link, that’s why you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the very best hardware”.

Despite the Hunter’s high failure rates, they were still lower than anecdotal evidence from Royal Life Saving, which suggested up to 90 per cent of pools across NSWwere failed on first inspection.

However, Mr Lawrence said the emphasis on fencing legislation and compliance would not remove the risk of drownings.He called for more pool safety education programs and for owners to take responsibility for pool safety.

Michael Ilinsky from Royal Life Saving has urged pool owners waiting to have their pools reassessed to keep kids away from the area.

He said owners who have had their pool found non-compliant needed to have it fixed as soon as possible.

Strike Force Benni releases images of man inside South Maitland service station during armed robbery

Do you know the man on CCTV | photos CCTV: Police wish to speak with this man, who entered the South Maitland service station on October 29 before it was robbed by a woman. Picture: NSW Police.
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CCTV: Police wish to speak with this man, who entered the South Maitland service station on October 29 before it was robbed by a woman. Picture: NSW Police.

CCTV: The suspect vehicle was also caught on security cameras at the South Maitland service station. Picture: NSW Police.

TweetFacebookSPECIALIST detectives have released images of a man wanted for questioning over a South Maitland service station armed robbery.

Strike Force Benni was established earlier this year to investigate the hold ups at Muswellbrook, Maitland, Raymond Terrace, Heatherbrae and Islington during June and July.

On Wednesday, detectives released images of a man they believe could assist with the investigation into an armed robbery at a service station at South Maitland on October 29.

Just before midnight, the man was in the service station, when a woman armed with a knife entered the store and threatened the console operator, demanding cash and cigarettes, police said.

The console operator handed over cash and cigarettes, before the woman ran from the area.

Shortly after, the man left the service station.

The man is depicted in the security image as being of Caucasian appearance, aged in his 30s, about 170cm-175cm tall, with a slim build, brown hair with a receding hairline, and a beard.

Detectives have also released an image of a vehicle which was seen in the area around the time of the incident.

It is depicted as a two-door, white Hyundai Excel and described as having a centre exhaust with distinct dark circles on the bumper on each side of the exhaust.

The female suspect is described as being of Caucasian appearance, about 165cm tall, with a medium build.

She was wearing a black hooded jumper, with a bandana covering her face; black shorts with white trim and white sneakers. She was also carrying a brown pillow case.

Anyone with information that may assist detectives with their inquiries is urged to come forward.

Five men and a woman have been previously arrested and charged in connection with Strike Force Benni. Their matters remain before the court.