R&D magazine presents the R&D 100 Award annually to the world’s 100 most significant new product innovations. Recipients are selected by a panel of independent experts.
The magazine is presenting the award for the Personal Dust Monitor - a state of the art measurement device that accurately measures the exposure of individuals to dust
in underground coal mines and other workplace settings.
The monitor makes it possible for the first time to determine immediately if miners are exposed to airborne dust at concentrations that could pose a risk of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung).
Although efforts by industry, labor, and government have led to significant reductions in
the incidence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, exposure to airborne coal mine dust still
presents a risk for some 40,000 miners who work in underground coal mines in the U.S.
Knowledge provided by the instrument would enable miners and mine operators to take
timely action to avoid potential overexposures.
The monitor has received unprecedented support from industry and coal organizations alike.
“Never before have we had within our grasp a tool to empower miners and mine operators to initiate intervention actions based upon the results of real-time sampling,” Peabody safety vice president David Beerbower said during a testimony to the US Senate.
UMWA president Cecil Roberts said: "We believe that the new device holds the key to achieving the most significant reduction in the incidence of black lung disease in many years…
The Personal Dust Monitor is a portable device that integrates the instrumentation for
dust monitoring into the cap lamp and battery system already carried underground by
miners without adding to weight or size.
The device continuously collects an air sample from the cap lamp fixture on the miner’s safety helmet. Airborne mineral dust goes from the inlet through an air tube to the belt pack. There, the dust particles collect on a filter, and a sensor called a Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalance system measures the mass of the particles continuously. Information is immediately displayed on the belt pack and recorded for later analysis.
Dust monitors currently in use require days or weeks for the analysis of the airborne mineral dust collected on filters, and do not provide continuous feedback concerning personal exposure. The real-time feedback provided by the device on dust levels allows corrective action to be taken before miners are overexposed.
NIOSH and the partner organizations developed the concept and technical requirements
for the device, and NIOSH provided funding and technical guidance to help Rupprecht &
Patashnick (R&P) with design, development, and testing.
The Bituminous Coal Operators Association, UMWA, and the National Mining Association made underground coal mines and union members available for extensive testing of prototype units in 2003.
Currently, the partners are collaborating on more extensive underground coal mine tests of 25 second-generation units that incorporate changes suggested by the earlier evaluation.
R&P’s Erich Rupprecht said the device was very close to receiving MSHA type approval, and 25 units ordered by NIOSH and MSHA are slated to ship from R&P before the end of this month.