The evaluation and quantification of respirable coal and silica dust concentrations: a task-based approach.J Occup Environ Hyg. 2014; 11(6):406-14.JO
Silicosis and coal worker's pneumoconiosis are serious occupational respiratory diseases associated with the coal mining industry and the inhalation of respirable dusts containing crystalline silica. The purpose of this study (funded by the Mine Health and Safety Council of South Africa) was to evaluate the individual contributions of underground coal mining tasks to the respirable dust and respirable silica dust concentrations in an underground section by sampling the respirable dust concentrations at the intake and return of each task. The identified tasks were continuous miner (CM) cutting, construction, transfer of coal, tipping, and roof bolting. The respirable dust-generating hierarchy of the tasks from highest to lowest was: transfer of coal > CM right cutting > CM left cutting > CM face cutting > construction > roof bolting > tipping; and for respirable silica dust: CM left cutting > construction > transfer of coal > CM right cutting. Personal exposure levels were determined by sampling the exposures of workers performing tasks in the section. Respirable dust concentrations and low concentrations of respirable silica dust were found at the intake air side of the section, indicating that air entering the section is already contaminated. The hierarchy for personal respirable dust exposures was as follows, from highest to lowest: CM operator > cable handler > miner > roof bolt operator > shuttle car operator, and for respirable silica dust: shuttle car operator > CM operator > cable handler > roof bolt operator > miner. Dust control methods to lower exposures should include revision of the position of workers with regard to the task performed, positioning of the tasks with regard to the CM cutting, and proper use of the line curtains to direct ventilation appropriately. The correct use of respiratory protection should also be encouraged.