The principle health hazards to miners come from airborne particulates and other physical factors. These hazards vary greatly based on the composition of ores and mines surrounding the rocks as well as the methods used for mining. Other health hazards come in form of airborne diseases particularly when miners are living in isolated conditions. These include conditions like HIV, tuberculosis, Hepatitis etc. The exposure to these viruses and pathogens varies based on the miners’ proximity to them as well as the preventive methods used for controlling them.
Blender hopper Dusts and miners’ exposure to silica
One of the most common types of exposure comes in the form of sand or silica arising from blender hoppers used in large mining operations. The sand arrives from the processing facilities and is transported, loaded and refilled into sand movers through the use of transfer belts. The blender hoppers used for the purpose often release dust with huge amounts of silica which enters the miners’ lungs causing inflammation and scarring. Both of these greatly lower the lungs’ capability of filtering oxygen from the inhaled air. Workers exposed frequently to silica in this manner often suffer from a condition known as Silicosis. Extreme exposure to silica might also lead to obstructive pulmonary issues, lung cancer or tuberculosis. To prevent these occurrences, it is vital to follow the safety precautions associated with blender hoppers. For more information, visit Blenders 101.
Physical Hazards of Mining operations
Mining operations done on a larger scale also include physical hazards such as heat and noise. Noise is inevitable when larger machines like fans, blasters, transporters and hydraulic machines are used. The noise generated is even more when mining operations are carried out in closed environments. Conventional methods of protecting self from noise generated in this manner include the use of hearing protection devices. Additionally, miners must be encouraged to have regular audiometric tests to ensure preserving their hearing capability. Insulation and sound absorbing techniques must be used as far as possible to muffle engines and quiet down hydraulic machines.
Heat is another common hazard in case of underground mines. Even some surface miners are not completely safe from it. The rocks being mined are the main sources of heat since every 100m depth raises the rock’s temperature by nearly 1 deg C. Heat is also generated based on the close physical proximity of the workers in closed spaces, the type of air circulation methods used and the heat generated by the principle mining equipment or diesel powered machines. On the surface, miners may get exposure to heat through the hot engines, sunlight, humidity and other environmental factors. All these hazards can be reduced and eliminated by providing ample quantities of potable water, limiting the physical activities, working in cooler hours and providing shelter from the sun along with adequate air circulation. First aid supplies must also be available on hand along with the use of large underground air conditioning units in deeper mines to reduce heat exhaustion of miners.
Ionizing radiation is another hazard faced by miners. It mainly occurs when radon and other ionization gases are loosened by blasting. Underground streams might also carry such gases and they may radiate enough of harmful radiation to cause cancer. This is particularly true for uranium and tin miners and their risk is even multiplied further through habits such as smoking. Other gaseous hazards come from carbon monoxide that may arise from engine exhausts and mine fires. Blasting of rocks using diesel engines also gives rise to nitrogen oxides but this hazard can be eliminated through use of large air ventilation engines for diluting their concentration.
For more information related to risk management and control of occupational health hazards for serious and amateur miners, click here.