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NIOSH control technology research for mining hazards.

Breslin JA
Working Partnerships: Applying Research to Practice, NORA Symposium 2003, June 23-24, 2003, Arlington, Virginia. Washington, DC: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2003 Jun; :116
NIOSH research is developing and evaluating control technology to protect miners against the most significant health and safety hazards. This research is being done in collaboration with partners in industry, labor, and other government agencies. This has greatly facilitated the practical implementation of research results in operating mines. Examples of successful control technology research will be described for three major mining problems: silicosis, noise-induced hearing loss, and fatalities from roof falls in underground mines. Dust sampling conducted by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) shows that the average percent of silica dust samples exceeding the permissible exposure limit for high-risk occupations in mining varies from 23% to 30%. Mobile equipment operators at surface mining operations generally have the highest exposure to airborne respirable silica/quartz dust. NIOSH has established partnerships with several manufacturers, mining companies, and MSHA to demonstrate that older equipment cabs can be refurbished to provide effective dust protection. Collaborative field demonstrations showed that they can provide clean, positive air pressurization of the cabin interior. Dust-contaminated work clothing can cause up to a tenfold increase in a worker's respirable dust exposure. NIOSH, working in cooperation with a mineral-processing corporation, has developed a quick and effective method for cleaning dust-laden work clothing. The system uses a compressed air nozzle manifold to blow dust and product from the clothing in an enclosed booth. It has been tested successfully at a cooperating silica sand operation. Most miners have a hearing loss by the time they retire. Engineering control of noise is the best solution to the miners' hearing loss problem, but the application of engineered noise controls has had many problems. NIOSH is identifying existing noise controls and evaluating their effectiveness. An example of an effective treatment is a "windshield" in use on roof bolters that reduces noise levels on average by 5 dB(A). The findings of this study will be disseminated to the mining industry through handbooks and seminars so that the industry can focus noise control efforts on areas where they will have the most impact. Roof falls remain the greatest single safety hazard faced by underground miners. They cause nearly 50% of fatal injuries. Various forms of roof support are used to provide a stable mine opening to protect the mine workers from fatal falls of ground. To facilitate the application of new roof support technologies, NIOSH developed the Support Technology Optimization Program (STOP). STOP is a Windows-based software program that provides mine operators with a simple, practical tool to make engineering decisions about the selection and placement strategy of various standing roof support technologies. STOP is being used by every major coal company throughout the United States and by all support manufacturers. It is also being used in Australia, the Republic of South Africa, and the United Kingdom. MSHA uses the program with regard to the approval of roof support systems in underground coal mines.
Control-technology; Underground-mining; Silicosis; Noise-induced-hearing-loss; Hearing-loss; Mine-roof-falls; Mine-roof-support; Engineering-controls; Dust-control; Silica-dusts; Impact-noise
NIOSH, Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
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Working Partnerships: Applying Research to Practice, NORA Symposium 2003, June 23-24, 2003, Arlington, Virginia
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division