It may take more than 20 years for the effects of dust inhalation to show up, typically in respiratory-related illnesses.
But Pasi Julkunen, head of R&D, Tamrock surface drills at Sandvik Mining and Construction says this does not lessen the clear and present danger.
“It’s not the amount of dust that is the big problem, although great plumes of it can obscure visibility, but rather the type of dust,” Julkunen says
“The visible particles are not that dangerous; it’s the fine, almost invisible particles that are the issue, especially those with high quartz content. By its nature, mining, quarrying and construction creates large amounts of such fine particles,” he says.
“Technically speaking, it’s very hard to manage dust, but working habits play a big role and have to change. We need to encourage operators to stay in the cab as much as possible.
“Modern cabs are not only ROPS and FOPS protected, they are also isolated from the elements and the dust by effective seals and air filters.”
Julkunen says operators must stay in the cabs with the door shut, in quiet air-conditioned comfort.
“Even that won’t help if the cab is not kept clean and free of dust. Replacement filters also should be original parts, as ‘grey’ non-OEM alternatives may be less expensive but are also often less effective.
“It’s not only the cabs, the design of new drill rigs are intended to reduce the need for operators to leave their cabs to attend to the machine,” Julkunen says.
To help reduce the health risks, Tamrock has developed ZeroDust, which binds dust by spraying a natural agent into the rock drill flushing air.
In addition, the agent is sprayed to the lower end of the dust collector. The resulting mist increases humidity and transforms the dust into a harmless granular material.
Nevertheless, operators working outside the cabin must always wear respirators. Not only that, manufacturer should approve the respirator for the job.
Noise is another issue. Here, Tamrock’s solutions are both simple and high tech.
A simple tube shrouding system has reduced total noise levels by 10dBA. High tech possibilities being considered include anti-noise that cancels out noise of the same frequency.
“The latest legislation-compliant engines are also low noise and create more power at lower engine speeds, hence less noise,” Julkunen says.