Report: APP CMHS Project 1




CSIRO advises that the information contained in this comprises general statements based on scientific research. The reader is advised and needs to be aware that such information may be incomplete or unable to be used in any specific situation. No reliance or actions must therefore be made on that information without seeking prior expert professional, scientific and technical advice. To the extent permitted by law, CSIRO (including its employees and consultants) excludes all liability to any person for any consequences, including but not limited to all losses, damages, costs, expenses and any other compensation, arising directly or indirectly from using this publication (in part or in whole) and any information or material contained in it.



3.1.12. Heat, Respirable Dust, Vibration, Noise and Fatigue

3.1.12. Heat, Respirable Dust, Vibration, Noise and Fatigue

Heat control

Two controls for heat in underground coal mines are adequate ventilation and in hotter underground environments, the installation of air conditioning plants. In general, these controls are adequate in managing heat issues, Heat management will become more difficult as mines expand and deepen. Deep metalliferous mines are utilising the delivery of cold water to underground workings to assist in reducing the ambient temperature.

Heat control through air conditioning is practised in a number of central Queensland mining operations (Moranbah North, North Goonyella and Grasstree). It is expected that it will be required in other mines as mining depths increase.

Technologies are required to improve the capacity and efficiency of conditioned air generation and delivery to large scale mining operations.

Respirable Dust

Respirable dust is the dust fraction within the size 5 – 15 μm that is likely to be trapped in the alveoli of the lungs rather than be exhaled or passed through the bloodstream. The statutory limit of airborne coal dust is 3 mg/m3 in an 8 hour shift (silica is 0.1 mg/m3 ) and is intended to combat the combined issues of explosive and respirable dust levels in a mine. This dust causes pneumoconiosis or black lung. In the Australian context there have been no new cases of black lung in the last 16 years. The incident rate of pneumoconiosis in NSW remains at less than 0.5 %. The control of respirable dust is largely the same as for airborne dust (as detailed in Section 3.1.2) with the additional control of all workers wearing some form of personal protection.

The control technologies of respirable dust are practised in all underground coal mining operations in Australia.

Along with the need to improve dust reduction, suppression and capture; there is a need to improve the quality of personal protective equipment used for dust protection. Typical helmets with filters are heavy and cumbersome to the extent that workers are often tempted not to wear them.

Automation is one key method for removing the worker from the hazardous environment and providing even further protection.

Vibration

Vibration (whole body and hand/arm) has long been an antagonist of coal mine mechanisation. Due to the demands and heavy duty nature of the industry it is often not feasible to provide adequate suspension to protect people. There are several levels of approval needed, including formal approval from the Minister. CSIRO has been liaising with the Australian Public Service Commission, DIISR and the Minister's office, and approval is expected to be forthcoming. CSIRO has supplied all the information required, and have attended meetings to clarify and respond to questions. This has been addressed to some degree by improved seating and positioning of seats in transport vehicles. A caterpillar tracked personnel vehicle based on the sub-frame of an Israeli army personnel vehicle was adapted to industry conditions in the 1990’s by ANI Ruwolt and was extremely gentle on passengers, however the cost at the time was prohibitive (approximately 3 times the cost of the standard rubber tyred personnel transport vehicle) and the project did not progress. Coal mining equipment similarly provides even harsher conditions with drivers of shuttle cars and continuous miners subjected to almost full protection from impact. The move toward remote control has eased the impact for continuous miner operators, but introduced the hazard of proximity and topographic control errors. It is only relatively recently that monitoring of whole body and hand/arm vibration has been undertaken to at least gain an appreciation of the situation.

The technological needs/gaps include:

  • There is a need for more widespread and regular monitoring of vibration conditions to further define the extent of the issue.

  • Scope exists for more user friendly personnel transport technology.

  • Automation of continuous miners will potentially provide some relief, but full automation is some way off.

  • The use of other forms of coal haulage – slurry pipelines and continuous haulage systems described in Stage 2 will ease the condition for shuttle car operators.

  • There is a need to work closely with equipment manufacturers in order to ensure the needs of operators are considered in specification and design.

Noise

The confined nature of an underground mine and the power requirements of mine machinery exacerbate the noise factor. There is limited ability to reduce the noise output of equipment, though this is being done to some degree. A range of noise reduction measures have been applied to equipment such as auxiliary fans and diesel vehicles with some success. However, there have been disadvantages for each as fans lose efficiency and are still significantly noisy; and diesel vehicles experience an increase in heat. The main noise protection to date is through the use of personal protective equipment.

The technological needs/gaps include:

  • Continued development of a range of automation technologies to enable people to be removed from the noise producing areas, for example for longwall equipment and continuous miners.

  • Improved noise insulation methods that do not reduce efficiency and operability.

Fatigue

Fatigue, though not a mining specific hazard, is becoming an increasingly sensitive issue where work shifts are longer. A significant body of research is available detailing limits and conditions for healthy work/life balance.

Aside from established management processes that rely on personal discipline, measurement apparatus is available, though problematic in application. Systems such as Optalert and ARRB (Australian Road Research Board) Proactive Fatigue Management Systems are in operation but in the early stages of industry uptake.


3.1.12. Heat, Respirable Dust, Vibration, Noise and Fatigue

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