The mining industry is undergoing significant changes, especially in the realm of health and safety. One of the most pressing concerns in recent times has been the exposure of workers to silica dust. With the US Department of Labor, through the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), proposing new standards for silica dust exposure at mine sites, it’s crucial for industry professionals to be informed and prepared.
The MSHA’s proposed rule is a testament to the growing concern about the health implications of prolonged silica dust exposure. The new standards aim to lower the permissible limit of silica dust exposure for mining workers. The proposed rule suggests a limit of 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air for a full shift exposure, calculated as an 8-hour time-weighted average. This is a significant reduction from the current permissible limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter. Notably, this proposed standard aligns with the current silica exposure limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
To achieve these new standards, mines will be required to implement comprehensive engineering controls. These controls serve as the primary means to reduce silica dust creation at the source. They encompass a range of solutions, from advanced machinery modifications to innovative technologies that minimize dust generation.
However, engineering controls alone might not suffice. The proposed rule also emphasizes the importance of administrative controls. These controls are procedures and policies that help reduce workers’ exposure to silica dust. Examples include protocols for safely removing dust from work clothes, regular cleanup routines, and other measures that reduce both exposure and creation of silica dust.
For mines looking to comply with these new standards, several solutions can be employed. One of the most effective is Dry Fog technology. Dry Fog can reduce respirable silica dust (particles below 10um in size) more effectively than any other available technology. It works by generating a fine mist that captures and suppresses dust particles, preventing them from becoming airborne.
In addition to Dry Fog, High Pressure Water Sprays and High Pressure Misting Systems are also viable solutions. These systems release water at high pressures, capturing dust particles and settling them before they can spread. While they are particularly effective at reducing visible dust, they also play a role in controlling respirable dust to some extent.
Stockpiles are significant sources of dust in mining operations. The challenge with stockpiles, especially those containing silica, is that they can generate vast amounts of dust when disturbed by wind or machinery. This is where the Wind Fence technology comes into play. As a passive technology, wind fences are designed to reduce dust generation from stockpiles and open areas. They act as barriers, redirecting wind flow and preventing it from disturbing stockpiled material, thus playing a crucial role in silica stockpile dust reduction.
DSI stands at the forefront of offering solutions for dust reduction in mining operations. With a combination of active technologies like Dry Fog, High Pressure Water Sprays, and Misting Systems, DSI can achieve dust reduction levels of up to 99%. Their expertise and innovative solutions make them a go-to for mines looking to comply with the new MSHA standards.
The proposed rule is set to become effective 120 days after its publication in the Federal Register. Mines and related operations need to be proactive in adopting the necessary measures to ensure compliance. Beyond just meeting the standards, the focus should be on creating a safer work environment for all.
In conclusion, the MSHA’s proposed standards for silica dust exposure are a significant step towards ensuring the health and safety of workers in the mining industry. With the right combination of engineering and administrative controls, along with advanced solutions like those offered by DSI, mines can not only achieve compliance but also set new benchmarks in occupational health and safety. As the industry moves forward, the keywords to remember are “Silica Dust Mitigation,” “Silica Dust Control,” and “Silica Stock Pile Dust Reduction.” These terms encapsulate the essence of the new era of mining safety and health.