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Mining Contract: Canopy Air Curtain to Reduce Respirable Coal Mine Dust Exposure for Shuttle Car Operators

Contract #200-2015-63485
Start Date8/12/2015
Research Concept

Past research has demonstrated that canopy air curtain technology has successfully reduced respirable dust levels for continuous miner operators and roof bolter operators. The air curtain technology captures a portion of the mine air, passes this air through a filter, and then blows the filtered air over the equipment operator from a canopy-mounted plenum. This protection could be extended to shuttle car operators by developing a canopy air curtain system for shuttle cars that will reduce the operators’ respirable dust exposure.

Topic Area

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is ongoing.

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), or “black lung,” is caused by the inhalation of respirable coal dust. This is a disabling and potentially fatal disease which has no cure. To prevent the occurrence of CWP, worker overexposure to respirable coal dust must be eliminated. Coal mine operators implement engineering controls as the primary means of limiting airborne respirable dust levels and worker exposures.

A review of past field study results shows that underground shuttle car operator is an occupation that can have high respirable dust exposures, especially on mining sections that use blowing face ventilation systems. Data collected by NIOSH researchers shows that shuttle car operator dust exposures averaged 1.96 mg/m3 during the first 20 feet of extended cuts, and 2.32 mg/m3 during the last 20 feet of these cuts. Also, elevated dust concentrations may be occurring on blowing faces during tramming, because the haulage path often routes through return air.

Canopy air curtain technology has successfully reduced respirable dust levels for continuous miner operators and roof bolter operators. In order to extend this protection to shuttle car operators, the Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) contracted with Marshall University to design, fabricate, and demonstrate a canopy air curtain system for shuttle cars that will reduce the operators’ respirable dust exposure. The contract specifies that the components be protected from damage and the system must not hinder the performance of the operator or the specifications of the shuttle car. Finally, the system must be able to receive approval from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for operation in underground coal mines.

The first prototype of the shuttle car air curtain has been assembled and initial testing is underway. After the initial testing is complete and a final design report has been accepted by NIOSH, the shuttle car canopy air curtain is to be delivered to the Pittsburgh Mining Research Division for testing in the continuous miner dust gallery before being tested in an active underground coal mine.


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