State governments across Australia are rapidly adopting the stringent guidelines set by Safe Work Australia to block the emerging corrosive health conditions among mine workers caused by airborne pollution generated from mining activity.
With the exception of Tasmania, every Australian state now follows the recommendations set forth by Safe Work Australia’s workplace exposure standards (WES) and guidance pertaining to exposure to airborne contaminants. The revised guidelines were set in response to a worrying surge in cases of black lung disease and silicosis among mine workers.
Recommendations in effect in a staggered manner
The policy aims to halve the amount of silica dust in the air around worksites and further reduce the respirable dust exposure for coal mines.
From July 1, 2020, most states adopted Safe Work Australia’s recommended WES for respirable crystalline silica to eight-hour time-weighted average airborne concentration of 0.05 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3), which is half the amount compared to the earlier guideline of 0.1 mg/m3.
The revised WES for dust respirable exposure standards aims to reduce coal dust to a time weighted average (TWA) of 1.5 mg/m3 from the previous standard of 2.5mg/m3. These changes are effective October 1, 2022 (allowing for a three-year transitional period) for each coal mine across Australia. Queensland has already commenced adopting these standards, with other states planning to follow suit before the deadline.
Implementation rife with challenges
Miners are finding it increasingly difficult to implement the changes necessitated by the state governments for controlling airborne pollution.
To mitigate the generation of coal, silica, and other hazardous dust, miners are still primarily reliant on traditional water-based methods or the use of non-sustainable chemicals. These dust control measures are often ineffective and detrimental to the environment.
Such methods could result in debilitating effects on a worker’s health and productivity by causing respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumoconiosis, or ‘black lung’. Only preventative dust monitoring and suppression methods can hope to block such corrosive health conditions.
GRT leads the way
Global Road Technology (GRT) is leading the way in meeting requirements set forth by Safe Work Australia by providing innovative solutions to bolster the mining industry’s dust suppression needs, and in turn better protecting workers and the community.
“Inadequate and ineffective dust control measures around mining activities are the key contributor to the increase in frequency of black lung disease and silicosis among mine workers”
GRT General Manager Daniel Grundy said: “At GRT we are committed to improving worker safety at mine-sites across the country and see these legislative changes as a wake-up call for the sector.
Inadequate and ineffective dust control measures around mining activities are the key contributor to the increase in frequency of black lung disease and silicosis among mine workers, and it’s critical that we work together as an industry to address this through a more holistic approach to managing the airborne pollution caused by mining activity.
Tightening the occupational exposure limits (OEL’s) and workplace exposure standards (WES) for coal and silica dust caused by mining operations, is the first-step in a long journey the industry needs to embark on as we aim put the safety of workers and the community front and centre – requiring a rethink on how we approach dust suppression across the country.”
Holistic, innovation-focused, cost-effective approach
GRT’s dust control solutions make use of more holistic and innovation-focused tactics to suppress dust.
Solutions provided by GRT are simple to use, highly effective and increase in cost-effectiveness over time. These solutions are also deliverable using existing or readily available equipment such as water trucks, cannons, irrigation systems, and overhead dust control spray bar units.
Mr. Grundy commented: “GRT’s approach is based on proactively resolving the problem of dust pollution at its source through advanced engineering techniques and an innovative, environmentally friendly product suite.
To achieve the goal of nearly halving the silicate and coal dust particulates in the air generated by mining activity measured by percentage over the course of an eight-hour day it will be necessary to for miners to implement whole of mine site solutions to ensure that workers and communities are protected from airborne hazards.
This holistic approach lies at the very heart of everything we do at GRT and we want to work with stakeholders from across the industry to deliver solutions that provide people adequate protection from these hazardous materials – our belief is that in 2021 people should not be dying of diseases that are largely preventable using the right products and techniques.”