Managing diesel fumes essential to coal mine safety: Regan

ALL mines should have a documented strategy to control diesel emissions – a diesel emissions plan – to minimise exposure to potentially carcinogenic diesel emissions to the lowest level reasonably practicable, New South Wales mine safety operations director Rob Regan has warned.
Managing diesel fumes essential to coal mine safety: Regan Managing diesel fumes essential to coal mine safety: Regan Managing diesel fumes essential to coal mine safety: Regan Managing diesel fumes essential to coal mine safety: Regan Managing diesel fumes essential to coal mine safety: Regan

NSW chief inspector Rob Regan.

Lou Caruana

The DEP should be an integral part of the mine’s health and safety management system, take a holistic risk based approach, be consistent with work health and safety legislation and follow the hierarchy of risk controls, he said.

“All areas and tasks where workers may be exposed to diesel exhaust emissions should be identified and effectively controlled through risk assessment,” he said.

“Parameters which may increase the risk such as the type of work being carried out, ventilation, use and number of diesel engines in the same ventilated area, the number of people exposed and the duration of exposure should be considered.”

In June 2012 the International Agency for Research on Cancer reclassified whole diesel exhaust as a carcinogen to humans. This change has implications for the mining industry.

Diesel exhaust contains a complex mixture of gases, vapours, aerosols and particulate matter and most mines use diesel engines in some form or other.

Diesel particulate matter consists of elemental carbon, organic carbon plus other trace metals.

“Mining legislation requires that pollutants from diesel plant in underground parts of the mine are minimised as far as reasonably practicable,” Regan said.

“Coal mining specific legislation also requires management systems to control diesel pollutants in the underground parts of a coal operation and sets out limits and requirements for diesel engine exhaust analysis through gazette.”

A unified approach between mine management, health, ventilation and maintenance departments in conjunction with OEMs is also required.

Areas where workers may be exposed to inhalation of diesel exhausts include underground parts of the mine and other confined or enclosed areas as identified by risk assessment – for example, tunnels, pits, buildings and workshops.

There is no published occupational exposure standard for DPM or EC.

The Guideline for the management of diesel engine pollutants in underground environments recommends a maximum workplace exposure of 0.1 milligram per cubic metre (100 micrograms per cubic metre) in the EC fraction (0.2mg/cu.m DPM).

“Personal exposure monitoring of EC at mines indicates this target is achievable with currently available control strategies,” Regan said.

“Mines should strive to reduce worker exposure further where possible.”

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