Mining Publication: Whole-Body Vibration Exposure Comparison of Seat Designs for Low- and Mid-Seam Shuttle Cars in Underground Coal Mines
In a systematic study, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) evaluated seat designs in low- and mid-seam shuttle cars during production operations at two underground coal mines in southern West Virginia. The purpose was to support, with additional data, earlier findings that NIOSH ergonomic seat designs (featuring viscoelastic foam padding and lower-back support) may help reduce health risks to operators of coal mine shuttle cars. Eight shuttle car operators evaluated seven seat designs (one already in use in each vehicle and five NIOSH designs) relative to perceived and measured whole-body vibration (WBV) exposure (including vehicle jarring/jolting) and discomfort. Operators’ perceptions using a visual analog scale (VAS) and questionnaire ratings were compared with International Standards Organization (ISO) 2631-1:1985 fatigue-decreased proficiency (FDP) limits and measured WBV levels on low- and mid-seam shuttle cars. Objective and subjective data results indicated that NIOSH seat designs (with added adjustability, lower-back support and improved seat padding) performed better to reduce vehicle jarring/jolting levels and that shuttle car operators favored them over existing seat designs. The NIOSH low- and mid-seam shuttle car seats showed 45 to 77 percent better performance in FDP and 9 to 60 percent better performance overall in operators' ratings. Considering the VAS results for low- and mid-seam shuttle cars under no-load conditions, operators rated the level of jarring/jolting 18 to 89 percent lower with the NIOSH seats. Reductions in measured vehicle jarring/jolting were 19 to 46 percent for the three-directional vector sum accelerations relative to the existing seats on the low- and mid-seam shuttle cars. Questionnaire responses indicated that operators for both shuttle car models rated NIOSH seat designs as more comfortable overall. Vehicle operators most frequently suggested adding armrests to improve the seats on the mid-seam shuttle car. A suggested improvement for the low-seam shuttle car was to make the seat a better fit for the operator compartment, which would enhance clearance between the operator and vehicle controls and allow for better seat adjustment and operator visibility.