Mining Publication: Snapshot of Noise and Worker Exposures in Sand and Gravel Operations
Previous studies and research efforts have shown that noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a problem in the U.S. mining industry. In response, researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have been conducting a cross-sectional survey of equipment noise and worker noise exposures in the mining industry to estimate the potential for NIHL within the mining community. One commodity recently surveyed was the extraction of sand and gravel from surface pits and by dredging. To address the potential for NIHL in the sand and gravel industry, sound levels on and around the dredges and processing equipment were recorded to identify areas of high noise levels. Full-shift worker dosimetry, in conjunction with task observations, was documented to determine the relationship between exposure and source. This paper presents research examining noise on dredges used in several surface mine sand and gravel operations and in the processing facilities. Results indicate that there are areas on the dredges (crane, suction pumps and diesel engines) where sound levels greater than 90 dB(A) are present. In addition, crushers and screens used in the processing of the sand and gravel also generate sound levels greater than 90 dB(A). Although no surveyed worker exceeded the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA’s) permissible exposure level (PEL) of 90 dB(A) eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA8), laborers, mechanics, oilers, helpers, pickers and greasers are the workers most likely to be exposed to hazardous sound levels and to thus develop NIHL over time.