Mining Publication: Current NIOSH Dust Control Research for Noncoal Surface Mines
Miners at noncoal surface mining operations are often exposed to high levels of respirable dust. In an effort to lower the respirable dust exposure of these surface miners, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has been conducting research to address this problem in a practical and economically viable manner. One successful effort deals with lowering the dust exposure of equipment operators in enclosed cabs. Many types of surface mining equipment utilize enclosed cabs to protect equipment operators from dust exposure. Normally when the equipment is new, the cabs are fairly airtight. These tightly sealed cabs, combined with good filtration systems, generally provide the operator with good dust protection. However, most mining equipment is older, and as aging occurs, many components of the enclosure deteriorate. The structural integrity of the cab diminishes and the effectiveness of the air filtration system fails. NIOSH has been successfully researching cost-effective methods to improve both filtration effectiveness and cab integrity of these older cabs in order to provide a healthier work environment for equipment operators. Dust sampling records indicate that drill operators and helpers have the highest dust exposure of all workers at surface mining operations. Since much of the overburden contains a high percentage of silica, the health hazard associated with this dust can be even more serious. NIOSH research is addressing techniques to lower respirable dust levels at surface drilling operations.