CDC/NIOSH Mine Safety Product Receives 2004 Industry R&D Award

September 27, 2004
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and partners today received the R&D 100 Award 2004 for development of the “Personal Dust Monitor.” This is the first device that allows immediate determination that coal miners are exposed to airborne dust at concentrations that pose a risk of pneumoconiosis, a potentially life-threatening lung disease.

“The Personal Dust Monitor is the first advancement in this type of device in 30 years,” said Dr. John Howard, Director of CDC’s NIOSH “It is a terrific example of the benefits that result from government and private sector research partnerships. This partnership, which included coal miners, resulted in a product that enables workers and employers to take corrective actions before miners are overexposed to airborne dust.”

The Personal Dust Monitor was developed through a collaboration involving NIOSH, the Bituminous Coal Operators’ Association, the United Mine Workers of America, the National Mining Association, and Rupprecht & Patashnick Co., Inc.

R&D magazine each year convenes a panel of independent technical experts that selects 100 technologically significant products for recognition. Past winners have included 3M, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Texas A&M, Dow, Toyota, Procter & Gamble, and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Although efforts by industry, labor, and government have led to significant reductions in the incidence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, exposures to airborne coal mine dust still present a risk for some 40,000 miners who work in underground coal mines in the United States.

The portable device integrates the instrumentation for dust monitoring into a miner’s personal underground light—a cap lamp mounted on the miner’s safety helmet and powered by a battery pack on the miner’s belt—without adding to the equipment’s overall size or weight. The device collects an air sample from the cap lamp fixture, and airborne mineral dust goes from the inlet through an air tube to the belt pack. There, the dust particles collect on a filter. A sensor measures the mass of the particles continuously. Data are immediately displayed on the belt pack and recorded for later analysis. Previous monitors required days or weeks for analysis of airborne mineral dusts.

NIOSH and its partners developed the concept and technical requirements for the device, and NIOSH provided funding and technical guidance to help Rupprecht & Patashnick Co., Inc. with design, development, and testing. In addition to providing input related to the design of the monitor, the Bituminous Coal Operators Association, The United Mine Workers of America, and the National Mining Association made underground coal mines and union members available for extensive testing of prototype units in 2003.

While not an official member of the partnership, The Mine Safety and Health Administration assisted by funding initial development, facilitating the safety approvals for the device, and participating in the underground testing. Currently, the partners are collaborating on more extensive underground coal mine tests of 25 improved units that incorporate changes suggested by the earlier evaluation.

For more information on NIOSH research and technical assistance for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths in mining, visit the NIOSH web page at technical report describing the Personal Dust Monitor is available on the NIOSH web page at icon.

Page last reviewed: July 22, 2015