Improved Dust Control For Bag Handlers - On-Site Tests Lead To Minor Modifications To A Bag-Palletizing System That Significantly Reduce Workers' Dust Exposure
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Improved Dust Control For Bag Handlers - On-Site Tests Lead To Minor Modifications To A Bag-Palletizing System That Significantly Reduce Workers' Dust Exposure

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      A recent report evaluating silica exposure levels in the metal/nonmetal mining industry noted that bag packaging and loading are some of the occupations at the greatest risk. In addition to dust problems, the bag-stacking process is labor intensive, making lost-time injuries common due to back fatigue and strains. During the bag-stacking process, a significant amount of dust can be generated, mainly from product on the outside of the bags and from dust escaping the bag valve upon impact of the bag on the pallet. In an effort to address dust-exposure and back-fatigue issues, Malvern Minerals Co., Hot Springs, Ark., made two major improvements to its ground silica stacking facility. First, the company purchased a semi-automated bag palletizing system (Figure 1). With this system, the bag stacker does not lift the bags, but slides them across a metal table. Small jets of air exit through perforations in the table top (similar to an air hockey game), allowing workers to more easily slide each bag into the proper position. After each layer of bags is completed, the table slides open, and the entire layer of bags is loaded onto an underlying pallet. The table then closes, readying it for another layer of bags. After the entire pallet is loaded, the unit delivers the pallet to a shrink wrap and forklift pick-up area. In addition to this semi-automated palletizing unit, Malvern Minerals purchased an Overhead Air Supply Island System (OASIS) to lower the bag stacker's dust exposure. The OASIS takes outside air, directs it through MEASURING RESPIRABLE DUST The bag stacker's respirable dust exposure was monitored using a RAM-1 instantaneous dust monitor to evaluate the impact of the various changes on the palletizing process and dust-control equipment. The bag stacker wore a vest that held the 10-mm Dorr-Oliver cyclone, which classifies the respirable portion of dust. Flexible tygon tubing was used to connect the cyclone to the RAM-1 dust unit, allowing the bag stacker to perform the palletizing process with minimal interference. The RAM-1 measures respirable dust concentrations by light scattering with a sensing chamber. This device closely simulates gravimetric measurements when calibrated for a specific dust. This instrument is ideal for comparative evaluations, as was the case in this study. Since the RAM-1 is not an MSHA-approved instru¬ment for dust compliance sampling, the dust concen¬trations listed in this article should be used as a com¬parative value of respirable dust concentration and not to determine actual dust concentrations from a com¬pliance standpoint.
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