Mining Publication: NIOSH Hazard Controls 27 - New Shroud Design Controls Silica Dust from Surface Mine and Construction Blast Hole Drills
Exposure to airborne respirable crystalline silica dust can lead to silicosis, a debilitating lung disease. On surface coal mining and construction sites, blast hole drills are notorious sources of airborne respirable dust that may contain significant amounts of silica. The drill operator and drill helper usually receive the greatest silica exposure compared with other occupations. As a result, many drilling operations have been, and still are, on more stringent dust standards. Drilling through various rock formations naturally presents a strong potential for silica dust generation for several reasons. First, drilling is a pulverizing process that generates large amounts of very small dust particles. Second, the bailing air used to flush cuttings from the hole leaves the hole at a very high velocity and can be difficult to contain. Third, many fixed shrouds used to enclose the area beneath the drill deck have a significant amount of leakage due to 1) gaps between the shroud and ground created by raising/leveling the drill, 2) gaps in the corner seams, and 3) torn deck shrouds.