Real-time dust monitoring set to improve worker safety

Armed with the latest technology, the Occupational Hygiene team at Glencore's Mount Isa Mines is undertaking real-time dust monitoring studies targeting high-risk emission sources of plant and equipment within the workplace.

Our robust onsite dust management program forms an essential part of our proactive approach to minimising the exposure of any potentially harmful airborne emissions to our workforce.

Although we've come a long way from the pick and shovel days of early mining, it can still be a grimy job extracting and processing ore so we must maintain strict hygiene controls to keep our people safe from dust exposure and other contaminants.

Ventilation is the biggest control in our underground mines where impure air is constantly being removed from the mine. Mining operators are separated from dust, where possible, through sealed air-conditioned cabins or by operating loaders remotely from control rooms allowing them to work safely and comfortably. Crib rooms are also positively pressured to ensure workers have a dust free environment to eat, rest and recharge.

In higher risk areas, such as the Lead Smelter, extra precautions are taken and it is mandatory to wear respirators.

The Occupational Hygiene team has recently been using a TSI SidePak AM520i, which is a small lightweight aerosol monitor, that measures and records concentrations of dust in the environment. The TSI SidePak AM520i is used with a GoPro Hero 8 camera providing a visual story of an area at the exact time the data is recorded.

Rafael Lopez, Senior Occupational Hygienist says this allows video footage from the GoPro to be overlaid with real-time data collected from the TSI SidePak AM520i which provides highly accurate locations of dust emission sources.

"The idea is to capture a visual representation of hazards and assess real-time airborne dust emission sources in areas of high risk so we can identify, implement and measure engineering controls targeted specifically for a particular area or piece of equipment," says Rafael.

"Most of our dust sampling is based on collecting dust on a filter, with the filter then sent to a laboratory for analysis which can take up to two weeks.

"The real-time monitor uses light scattering technology to measure concentrations instantaneously and although we can't specify the chemical composition of the dust, we can look at the particle size and implement the appropriate controls and safety measures."

"Using this new technology helps us to further protect the health and safety of our workers in a more timely way," Rafael says.

In the next edition of Resourceful we'll take a look at how Mount Isa continues to have one of the most intensive air quality monitoring networks of any city in Australia and how we're actively working to reduce dust and emissions.