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Mining Project: Engineering Noise Controls for Longwall Mining Systems

Project DetailValue
Principal Investigators
  • Hugo E. Camargo, NIOSH, 412-386-6158
Start Date10/1/2009

The objective of the project is to reduce cases of noise induced hearing loss caused by longwall mining systems, engineering noise controls will be developed and implemented to reduce noise overexposure. This will, in turn, help to reduce noise-induced hearing loss in mine workers.

Program Area
Keywordshearing loss, mining, noise

Research Summary

To reduce cases of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in miners caused by longwall mining systems, engineering noise controls will be developed and implemented to reduce noise hazards from these machines. Collaboration between NIOSH and stakeholders developed during previous NIOSH studies will be used to obtain underground test sites. Measurements will be taken to develop a baseline for comparison purposes when engineering noise controls are applied. Based on previous research, noise control efforts will be divided into three component areas: (1) cutting system, (2) crushing system, and (3) tailgate system. Each component subsystem will be examined in a laboratory environment when possible. Some component subsystems may have to be observed in a factory environment due to machine complexity and size. Noise control effectiveness will be evaluated in an underground working environment where baseline acoustic measurements were taken. The final product of this five-year project will be the implementation of engineering noise controls on a longwall mining system that reduces worker noise exposures to within MSHA compliance.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the most common occupational illness in the United States today, with 30 million workers exposed to excessive noise levels. NIHL occurs across all industries but is of particular concern in the construction and mining industries where over 3.3 million workers are exposed to damaging noise levels. Approximately 90% of coal mine workers and 49% of metal/nonmetal mine workers exhibit hearing loss by age 50. There are currently 40 longwall coal mines in the United States, and approximately 8,460 workers that directly operate these machines. With the successful implementation of noise treatments, these workers would no longer be exposed to harmful noise levels. The major outcome of this research will be working towards the elimination of new cases of NIHL as specified in Intermediate Goal 2.2 of the Mining Health and Safety Research Program Plan of PRL.

Noise controls will be developed and implemented to reduce noise overexposure caused by longwall mining systems. To reduce operator exposure, noise generating mechanisms on the longwall mining must be identified. These noise sources must be quantified in relation to operator positions due to the size relationship between worker and machine. Once dominant noise producing components have been identified, noise controls will be developed. These treatments will be evaluated and modified in a laboratory setting. Implementation of developed noise controls in an underground working environment will assess durability and performance. With the successful application of noise controls, longwall workers would no longer be exposed to harmful sound levels, which will reduce cases of NIHL in the mining industry.


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