Report: APP CMHS Project 1




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3.6.6. Others

A number of research projects are underway in USA to advance the technologies in respiratory disease prevention, noise-induced hearing loss prevention, cumulative musculoskeletal injury prevention and traumatic injury prevention. These research are briefly described in this section.

Respiratory Disease Prevention

Future research may show that nanoparticles are common in the mining environment, or that they are more toxic than larger-sized respirable particles. Future research in this field should address potential control technologies associated with nanoparticles in the mining environment, especially methods of both measuring and controlling exposure.

The recommendations of the Department of Labor advisory committee on the elimination of coal worker’s pneumoconiosis (U.S. Department of Labor, 1996) and a NIOSH criteria document (NIOSH, 1995) suggest lowering the standard for coal dust and silica. This requirement should be undertaken by working with stakeholders to decide on a desirable approach, to address the technological challenges that may arise should the permissible exposure limit (PEL) be reduced. Future research should address how changing work organisation (e.g., overtime, extended shifts) may affect the respiratory health of mine workers.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Prevention

As production increases due to equipment or process evolution, noise levels will increase. Future coal mining will likely involve thinner coal seams that may include more reject (rock), which produces higher noise levels. Deep mines can become very warm, making hearing protection devices more uncomfortable to wear—particularly for longer work shifts. More comfortable hearing protection needs to be designed to accommodate higher noise levels, deeper and warmer mines, and/or longer shifts.

Substantial evidence indicates many miners have lost significant hearing (NIOSH, 1976; Seiler et al., 1994; Franks, 1996; Franks et al., 1996). The safety of the aging workforce needs to be protected to ensure they do not suffer further hearing loss (Figure 86), and that communication with them in the mine is not compromised.

As the aging workforce retires, a new generation of miners will require a tremendous educational effort to train them on the ill-effects of hearing loss and how to prevent it. This must be addressed with training materials and appropriate dissemination plans.

More needs to be learned about the combined effects of mixed exposures (noise and fuel and other vapors) as well as the combined effects of mixed noise (continuous and impulse-impact noise) environments.

Figure 86 Examples of polyurethane encased flight bars for noise attenuation

Cumulative Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention

Because mining in the future will be carried out under more difficult conditions (greater depths, thinner seams, more severe environmental conditions), research on the relationships between mining tasks, the demands on mine workers, and changing environmental factors will be necessary (Figure 87). Increased use of remote control and automation are likely to result in new WMSDs. The changing nature of work organisation (e.g., longer shifts) could potentially result in more or different WMSDs.

Figure 87 Whole body vibration research project

Traumatic Injury Prevention

Changing mining conditions, such as increasing mine depths, new mining ventures, the handling of mine wastes, new fuels or mobile equipment (such as biofuels and fuel cells), and the increased size of mining equipment and electrical voltages, could result in different traumatic injury hazards.

Removing miners from hazardous areas by improving mining methods and equipment is a logical means of reducing traumatic injury. A strategic approach to facilitate this through work with other research entities and manufacturers to simultaneously design new mining systems and safety equipment is required.

Mine Disaster Prevention and Control

Prevention (including the use of improved hazard detection and the identification of new hazard sources), control, escape, survival, response, rescue, and other elements should be addressed in mine design, operations, miner training, personal protective equipment, rescue equipment, etc., in a systems engineering framework to eliminate or reduce the occurrences of disastrous events and enhance the chances of escape, survival, and rescue if they occur. From the collective research perspective, defining a good system is paramount. Multiple, redundant systems are required, particularly for escape and survival.

Continuous monitoring of conditions, especially by remote means, will become increasingly vital as the mining environment becomes more complex. The need to improve emergency escape and survival equipment will increase with a more complex mining environment. Communications, emergency response, and rescue team deployment strategies will all be more difficult in future mining settings. Figure 88 shows some examples of remote communications methods under investigation.

Figure 88 Examples of remote communications methods under investigation

Surveillance, Training and Intervention Effectiveness Research

As monitoring becomes more efficient, the effects of mixed exposures should be evaluated. The effects of combined exposure to dusts and chemicals on the health of miners and the effects of various combined components of diesel exhaust, particularly as new pollution control equipment changes the chemical characteristics of the exhaust, need to be understood. There are guidelines and suggestions for multimode exposure in other industries. Mining does not have either a standard or a guideline.

As stated several times, the mining environment is changing. Given the move toward deeper mines, the evaluation of environmental and occupational hazards of deeper mines (especially heat exposure) is required.

Advances in information technology bring new opportunities for information dissemination. Research programs should study the effectiveness of new educational materials, including virtual reality training, to ascertain if the increased cost of these techniques is associated with greater change in miner awareness and reduction in hazardous work activities.


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