Dust Issues in Mining
Mining is a dangerous job, and while tunnel collapses and other violent accidents make the national and international news, most people are less aware of dangers that take a longer time to cause injury and loss of life. The mineral and silica dust that miners are often exposed to is one example of a slow, but serious, threat to workers’ health.
Health Effects of Dust in Mining
Mining operations can produce a great deal of dust in a variety of particle sizes. The earth’s crust contains many different minerals, some of which are dangerous if taken into to body, either orally or through the lungs. For example, it’s well known that regular exposure to silica dust can cause silicosis and tuberculosis, and lead is a neurotoxin. Even materials that are not toxic, like iron, can cause problems when they’re breathed in as dust.
While some types of dust are worse than others, the fact is that any type of fine dust is a health risk, especially with regular exposure. Dust created by mining operations can become permanently lodged in the lungs and eventually cause respiratory issues and greatly raise workers’ risk of lung cancer. Scientists and engineers are working on ways to categorise and control dust in the workplace, but the best policy is always to minimise exposure.
Ways To Control Dust and Dust Exposure
There are several ways to control the dust that’s created by mining operations:
Ventilation decreases the concentration of dust in the air.
Containment keeps the dust limited to areas where people don’t normally work.
Filtration cleans the air by removing particles.
Suppression uses water and other substances to prevent dust from becoming airborne.
Wind barriers and diffusers help to keep settled dust in place.
At Lyons Air, we specialise in systems that can create positive pressure in work areas and in filtration systems, usually combined with air conditioning for thermal comfort. Properly fitted respiratory protection devices are mandatory gear for workers in dusty areas. Pressurisation systems and air filtering systems keep regular work areas safe from dust. These systems are absolutely vital to protecting workers in the everyday operation of mines.
All work areas in mines, including equipment cabs and onsite offices, should have both filtration and pressurisation systems to keep the dust in check and the workers safe from lung disease. Workers should be well protected, whether they’re in the mine with respirator, operating a piece of equipment or in the office, locker room or break room.
Mining dust is often more than just a nuisance. From a non-smoker with a smoker’s cough to a parent dying before their time, the dust in mines has the potential to have a very negative impact, and it is important to limit exposure as much as possible. Adding air filtration and pressurisation to miners’ workspaces is one way to limit exposure and reduce risk, and Lyons Air sells, installs and maintains the kind of pressurisation and filtration systems that can make mines safer for workers.
Mining will always be a dangerous job. Don’t make it any more hazardous than necessary. Make sure that exposure to mineral and silica dust in the workplace is limited, and help yourself and your employees retire with healthy lungs.