Exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) remains a serious health hazard to the US mining workforce who are potentially exposed as various ore bodies are drilled, blasted, hauled by truck, crushed, screened, and transported to their destinations. The current Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) for RCS remains at approximately 100 μg/m3, but it is noteworthy that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has lowered its PEL to 50 μg/m3 (with enforcement dates staggered through 2022 for various sectors), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has held a 50 μg/m3 recommended standard since 1976. To examine a method for reducing RCS exposure using a NIOSH-developed video exposure monitoring (VEM) technology (referred to as Helmet-CAM), video and respirable dust concentration data were collected on eighty miners across seven unique mining sites. The data was then collated and partitioned using a thresholding scheme to determine exposures that were in excess of ten times the mean exposure for that worker. Focusing on these short duration, high magnitude exposures can provide insight to implement controls and interventions that can dramatically lower the employee’s overall average exposure. In 19 of the 80 cases analyzed, it was found that exposure could be significantly lowered by 20% or more by reducing exposures that occur during just 10 min of work per 8-hour shift. This approach provides a method to quickly analyze and determine which activities are creating the greatest health concerns. In most cases, once identified, focused control technologies or behavioral modifications can be applied to those tasks.
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Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mention of any company or product does not constitute endorsement by NIOSH.
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Patts, J., Cecala, A. & Haas, E. Helmet-CAM: Strategically Minimizing Exposures to Respirable Dust Through Video Exposure Monitoring. Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42461-019-00168-7