Miners to take charge of dust levels

MINERS may soon be able to take dust exposure levels into their own hands through a series of corrective actions, United Miners Workers of America Health and Safety expert Joe Main said.

Angie Tomlinson

Main said these actions could only be put into place on the proviso Personal Dust Monitors (PDM) were approved and written into MSHA regulations.

“PDMs allows miners to control events throughout the whole shift, as opposed to the archaic system we have had in place for years, which is to do very limited testing and try to go back and fix the problem days or weeks later,” said Main.

He said deployment of the PDM device would allow mine management and miners to make instantaneous changes to dust control plans.

“By using the PDM you can constantly validate the performance of your plans or systems in place. When something goes out of whack you are able to detect it and fix the problem immediately,” he said.

“The introduction of the PDM is going to put pressure on ensuring people are more experienced and knowledgable in maintaining and keeping up the dust controls.”

Main said he anticipated a system involving PDMs would work in a similar way to the system used for methane detectors in coalmines today.

“Basically what happens when you run into increases in methane is you take appropriate action to reduce the methane concentrations. We see the PDM working the same way. When you start encountering dust you take action to reduce it to a permissible level.”

Corrective action can be taken by the miner through either personal reaction such as moving position, or through altering the controls of equipment.

“For example, during one of the trials we found elevated levels and identified dust as coming from the automatic duster boxes on the roof bolters, which collect dust and automatically dump,” he said.

“Nobody paid much attention to that until through the devices we found the boxes were automatically dumping when they wanted to and sometimes were dumping dust right back onto the miners.

“Corrective action taken was to change the sequence of how the dust boxes dumped and improve the dust levels.

“Another example is when a miner is on a continuous miner. Where you stand out on the longwall during the cutting cycle makes all the difference in the world.”

Main said the PDMs has support on both a management and worker level.

“During the PDM tests - I can tell you this. Both our miners and the mining management folks have been totally impressed with this device. Not only is accuracy but its ability as a tool to back check the dust control system and make quick changes,” he said.

“Miners have been supporting this kind of device for nearly three decades now. Mine operators that have been apprehensive to such a device are finding that the thing is a worthwhile tool.

“Some operators have told me: hey now we know what the dust level is, it is our responsibility to keep it down and if we don’t we will pay the price for that.

“It is a revolutionary tool that can make a major impact.”