Home > Safety on site: Asset and People management - Stopping silicosis

Safety on site: Asset and People management - Stopping silicosis

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Silicosis is a major danger to all workers in industrial sectors.

It is one of the three most important occupationally-related dust diseases in Australia.

Recent studies have shown that more than 1000 pneumoconiosis related fatalities occurred between 1979 and 2002, 56 per cent of which were caused by asbestosis, 38 per cent by silicosis, and 6 per cent by Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis, or 'Black Lung'.

The AWU feels so strongly that silicosis is re-emerging that it organ­ised an information sessions in Kalgoorlie to educate miners on the disease.

Silicosis is an lung disease which is caused by repeated and prolonged exposure and inhalation of relatively high levels of free silica or coal dust.

While the causes of silicosis are well known, according to a recent Australian Senate enquiry, there is still a lack of understanding about the actual size of the problem.

Throughout the industry, it is not known whether the current standards of risk minimisation for exposure to inhalable silica are enough to elimi­nate the risk of the disease completely.

What is known is that particles that pose the greatest risk are in the respirable range, and are extremely fine at a size of 2.5 µm or even less than 1 µm.

On top of this, there is concern that existing exposure standards are not providing safe levels of protection for mine workers.

This week, in the US, it was reported that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) announced plans to update its 40 year old standards to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica, which can come from granite, limestone, and other aggregates.

On the back of this and growing community concerns and mining industry concerns, the NSW Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has launched the next stage of its dust management agenda.

The Dust Stop Program enforces new standards on dust control, aiming to achieve an 80 per cent dust reduction by August 2014.

Currently in its third stage of implementation, the program requires all 30 of NSW's open cut coal mines to asses their dust control plans, in particular focusing on loading, dumping, and overburden removal.

In windy and dry conditions, which are often encountered during mining, tighter control is needed, and may force mines to change their operating practices in order to meet the new standards.

Kinder has developed dust suppression and management equipment for workers in the process and materials handling sector of the mine.
It has released the K-Snap-Loc Dust Seal System; K-Sure Belt Support; K-Fold-N-Seal Skirting Seal; K-Skirting Seal; K-Dust Enclosure Components; and conveyor hoods and covers to ensure that workers dealing in the movement of material have less exposure to dust during operations.

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