The article below featured in Roads and Infrastructure. It has been republished with their permission
Written by Saloma Haselgrove
Mining can be a dangerous profession, whether you’re operating above ground in open cut conditions or deep underground, it’s the smaller risks that can sometimes be the major health hazards.
Being so minuscule, dust is not only an issue for workers mining out in the open but also within machinery, as the tiny particles find their way into cabins and make breathing conditions unsafe for workers.
It is difficult to tell when dust particles and the air pressure within the cabin become dangerous for an operator relying on their senses alone, so Hummingbird Electronics has worked to bring an innovative solution to the industry to counter this risk.
Hummingbird has developed its cabin pressure monitors that compare atmospheric pressure outside of the cabin versus inside.
The solution ensures that there is enough positive pressure within the cabin to keep out dust and other contaminants.
Hummingbird national sales and marketing manager Mark Bruce says the company offers two different models of cabin pressure monitors: the configurable cabin pressure monitor and the panel mount cabin pressure monitor.
“The configurable model is a very compact unit that allows it to be tucked up out of the way of operators,” Bruce tells Safe to Work.
“The panel mount provides a lot more detail with regards to specific pressure that’s currently in the cabin and also an audible and visual alarm or warning status should the air pressure start to fall to an unsafe level.
“Essentially, the cabin pressure monitor, whether its configurable or panel mount, is mounted in the cabin of a machine to ensure it is pressurised.
“Our device ensures cabin pressure systems continue to operate at their peak, keeping the dust and other airborne contaminants out of machinery cabins.”
Monitoring air pressure is essential in preventing illnesses that can impact mine workers in the long term, such as asbestosis or coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP), commonly known as black lung.
While these illnesses can take many years of long-term exposure to dangerous particles to creep up on workers, the consequences of them can seriously affect the life expectancy of sufferers and even be fatal.
“When machinery operators are mining, whether its iron ore or coal, you can never guarantee that dangerous material is going to be exposed,” Bruce says.
“They could come across a seam of asbestos for example, or there could be airborne debris in the working environment that is harmful to humans.
While the cabin pressure monitor doesn’t clean filters or fix leaks in-cabin seals, it does give operators timely warning of any damage or leaks and when cleaning is required.
This can be combined with Hummingbird’s audio alert system, to ensure the warnings are received and understood clearly.
“You can combine our audio alert systems with the cabin pressure monitoring systems,” Bruce says.
“In the alert of low cabin pressure, the alert system will give the operator a verbal message, such as ‘Warning, cabin pressure low please stop the operation of the machine and contact supervisor’ rather than just a buzzer or light going up on the dashboard.
“These things can become like white noise in a loud working environment and it’s easy to ignore them.”
This is just one of the user-friendly features of Hummingbird’s audio alert system, with the company taking feedback from the industry to continue developing its systems.
Bruce attributes Hummingbird’s joint success in building quality relationships with its clients, offering locally made, user-friendly equipment that gets the job done.
“We’re a local business and we can quickly react to change, or demand,” Bruce says.
“When someone has an enquiry, they can speak to the person who made or designed it, we are very hands-on with the industry in our own backyard here in Australia.”
As well as creating solutions for industry, Hummingbird is also involved with backend design for original equipment manufacturers, keeping workers safe from harmful conditions, within not only the mining sector but also within the civil, construction and demolition sectors.
Bruce says that every machine on a mine site should be equipped with a cabin pressure monitoring device, for the health and safety of workers.
“What is the cost to your business if you don’t install one of these?” he concludes. “When a worker suffers, it’s not just downtime for your business, but a reputation as well and every worker deserves to come home healthy and safe at the end of the day.”