The NSW Department of Industry and Trade’s Mine Safety branch is seeking to make the management of diesel emissions a priority as larger diesel powered equipment is being used in underground coal mines.
NSW Mining Industry Assistance Unit manager Heather Jackson said managing diesel particulate was already a high priority for NSW Mine Safety.
“We treated it as a carcinogen even before these findings,” she told the Mine Safety Update.
“We were aware of the potential adverse health effects. This was expected for us because we were already treating it as a serious issue.”
An exposure standard for diesel particulate was issued by NSW Trade & Investment and operations are required to control exposures.
The standard requires personal exposure monitoring and exhaust measurement.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer said there had been mounting concern about the cancer causing potential of diesel exhaust, particularly based on findings in epidemiological studies of workers exposed in various settings.
This was re-emphasised by the publication in March, 2012, of the results of a large US National Cancer Institute/National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety study of occupational exposure to such emissions in underground miners, which showed an increased risk of death from lung cancer in exposed workers.
Diesel exhaust consists of small particulate matter, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen plus other substances. Diesel particulate has been identified as a carcinogen.
Coal Services hygienist Gary Mace said the full extent of the disease impact from exposure to diesel particulate was not known.
In light of the recent reclassification he said that operations should undertake monitoring of the workforce to determine the level of diesel particulate exposure to personnel and develop a management plan to reduce exposure to the lowest practicable level.
“With larger and more powerful diesel plant working underground this is an emerging issue,” he said.
“In underground mines, diesel particulate is a concern.
“This is a component of diesel exhaust comprising tiny particles of elemental and organic carbon and trace elements.”
Because of the latency between exposure and onset of symptoms of lung disease, and given the presence of other risk factors, it is not possible to isolate the contribution of diesel particulate to diagnosed cases of lung disease.