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Floor Heaters Can Increase Operator’s Dust Exposure in Enclosed Cabs; CDC NIOSH Technology News
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  • Description:
    Objective To reduce equipment operator exposure to respirable dust in enclosed cabs by examining the effectiveness of retrofitting air pressurization and filtration systems on existing cabs. Background Many types of heavy equipment are used in mining, construction, and agriculture. Most have enclosed cabs to protect the equipment operator from excessive dust and noise exposure. When the equipment is new, controls are normally implemented into the cab to keep these exposures at acceptable levels. However, as this equipment becomes older, many components of the enclosure deteriorate, such as gaskets and seals. This causes the effectiveness of the enclosed cab to be greatly reduced. Once this occurs, the equipment operator's dust exposure can increase to hazardous levels. In surface mining operations, elevated exposures to crystalline silica have caused an excessive incidence of silicosis. Approach A cooperative research study with a mining operation and a cab filtration company was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of retrofitting an older surface drill with two controls to lower the drill operator's respirable dust exposure. These two controls were: (1) A good air filtering and pressurization system to ensure that clean air was delivered into the enclosed cab. Ideally, the incoming air filter should be 99% efficient in removing particles with an aero- dynamic diameter of 0.3 pm or greater from the airflow. (2) Sufficiently sealing the cab to develop a positive static pres- sure and ensure that dust was not leaking into the cab. This was done by plugging all holes and cracks and maintaining good gaskets and seals. To prevent wind from forcing contaminated air through holes in the cab, the cab's static pressure must be greater than the wind's velocity pressure. During the course of this research, it was found that a floor heater fan used in the drill during the winter months greatly increased the operator’s Respirable dust exposure. Problem Identification Four days of background dust levels were measured as a baseline for this research. These baseline measurements were taken in May 2000 when air temperatures ranged from 60° to 70° F. When this was completed, the two controls were implemented. The first control was to install an improved air filtering and pressurization system on the enclosed cab. This was composed of a two-stage prefilter, a blower, then the respirator-medium secondary filter. Since the secondary filter was on the positive side of the fan, all air delivered into the enclosed cab had to pass through this secondary filter. After the filtering system was installed, the cab was pressurized to a static pressure of0.01 inches of water (w.g.), which is still very minimal. The second control was to seal the cab. New door gaskets were installed, and all cracks and holes in the shell of the enclosure were plugged. This increased the cab pressurization to approximately 0.1 inches w.g.

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