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Management of Diesel Exhaust in Underground Mines

Mark Desira
Inspector of Mines – Occupational Hygiene

The underground mine environment may contain a number of airborne contaminants that affect worker health. This includes diesel plant exhaust (gases and particulate matter) that is emitted into the underground work environment.

The classification of diesel exhaust as a Class 1 ‘confirmed human carcinogen’ by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) necessitates the management of the workers’ exposure to diesel exhaust.

The Mines Inspectorate has undertaken a study of underground mines to evaluate the level of risk to mine workers and the effectiveness of differing management strategies for diesel exhaust.

In the initial phase of this study, the monitoring results for mine worker exposure to diesel exhaust were collated for underground Similar Exposure Groups (SEGs). The characterisation of the exposure monitoring found that some SEGs (service crews and drilling operations) have higher exposure risk.

In the second part of the study, the effectiveness of the control measures applicable to different SEGs were analysed to identify the optimal control strategies.

This paper presents the finding that no single control measure is sufficient, and that a multifactorial approach incorporating complementary control measures is required to ensure the effective management of diesel exhaust in underground mines.

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