CAN DUST MONITORING TECHNOLOGY KEEP UP WITH NEW LEGISLATION?

As improved legislation is rolled out, will the dust and particulate detection technology be good enough to meet it?

Congratulations to the New South Wales Government for the foresight and resolution in driving through new legislation to protect workers from the hazards of silica, coal dust, and diesel particulates.

Speaking to Australian Mining, the state’s Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for resources John Barilaro said, “The decision to fast-track these more stringent standards for coal dust exposure was an easy one and is a great example of mine workers, mine operators and government working together to ensure we have robust frameworks in place to address this insidious disease.”

The legislation, which took effect from July 1st 2021, is hugely ambitious too. The legal exposure limit to respirable coal dust was reduced from 2.5 to 1.5 mg/m³ and respirable crystalline silica from 0.1 to 0.05 mg/m³. A new diesel exposure standard of 0.1  mg/m³ commenced 1 February 2021.

NSW leading the way

Compare the New South Wales Government’s to recent legislation in other parts of the world, and you can see how progressive the New South Wales Government has been. For example, in the United States where OSHA reduced the respirable crystalline silica permissible exposure limit (PEL) affecting the construction, manufacturing, and fracking industries from an allowable average of 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour shift to 50 micrograms per cubic meter.

In the UK, respirable crystalline silica (RCS) control measures need only be effective in keeping exposure below the Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) at the old NSW level of 0.1 mg/m³ respirable dust, averaged over eight hours.

With efforts underway to determine whether these levels might be made even more stringent, the good work is clearly an ongoing priority.

As The New South Wales Resources Regulator says in its compliance priority January-June 2021 report. ‘With the implementation of the revised exposure standards for silica and respirable dust, and a new exposure standard for diesel exhaust emissions, airborne contaminants was a priority project between July and December in 2020 and will continue to be a focus area.’

Legislation needs to be adhered to

But it’s one thing to bring new, more stringent particulate exposure regulations onto the statute book. It’s another matter altogether making sure they are adhered to.

For a start, guidance needs to be shared with business owners and operators to help them properly implement effective health control plans in the context of the new regulations.

And what about the technical implications? With legal limits (quite rightly) ever shrinking, how can businesses be absolutely confident that the technology they use onsite to measure exposure to harmful dust and particulates is accurate, realistically deployable and affordable?

With much of the legacy technology on the market anything but accurate, realistically deployable and affordable, clearly the challenge for technology companies is to step up and find new ways for industry to meet these new standards.

At Trolex we’ve been working tirelessly on meeting these challenges for years.

And now we have.

It’s called the Trolex real-time dust monitoring range of fixed and wearable dust monitors.

You might also call it an overnight 40-year success story, as we’ve turned our vast experience in environmental monitoring in mining and tunnelling, to designing, manufacturing and distributing world leading dust and particulate monitoring technology.

The Trolex real-time dust monitors

The Trolex AIR XD Dust Monitor and XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor are both designed to detect even the finest of particulates.

Fixed and wearable, real-time analysis of your working environment from the Trolex dust monitoring range giving you a crystal clear understanding of the real particulate threat you face.

Simple to deploy, easy to maintain and super accurate they deliver a practical and affordable way of protecting your workers AND remaining within the law.

Now, whatever the new legislation and however strictly it’s applied, you can be absolutely sure that you have the technology in place to meet all legal and regulatory responsibilities as well as lead a healthy, happy, motivated workforce.

Don’t take chances. Contact us now to find out more about how our AIR XD and XD ONE real-time dust monitoring products – accurate, simple to use, easy to maintain, real-time particulate detection technology can protect your workers in your hazardous environments.

The invisible killer: An air pollution emergency

We’re living through an air pollution emergency. One that’s already claiming thousands of lives and costing billions of pounds. And that news shouldn’t come as a surprise.

We wrote in a recent blog, The threat from particulates: It gets worse about an American academic study: “Long-Term Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter, Residential Proximity to Major Roads and Measures of Brain Structure.”

The report clearly shows the risks that people living over extended periods near busy main roads face from fine dust that causes respiratory diseases, results in brain atrophy (brain shrinkage) and leads to an increased risk of stroke and other disease.

Another academic paper, ‘Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Diseases’ suggests that air pollution may be damaging ‘every organ in the body.’

Unfortunately there was nothing ‘academic’ about the consequences of particulate inhalation for nine year old Ella Kissi-Debrah, whose death in 2013 was caused by ‘acute respiratory failure, severe asthma and air pollution exposure’.

“The whole of Ella’s life was lived in close proximity to highly polluting roads. I have no difficulty in concluding that her personal exposure to nitrogen dioxide and PM was very high,” stated the coroner.

Far from unusual

And the really sad thing about Ella and her family’s suffering?

Is that it’s far from unusual. 

According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution is the “new tobacco”, killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more.

“No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. It is a silent public health emergency.” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general.

More than nine in ten people breathe toxic air and 300 million live where toxic fumes are six times above international guidelines and the health impacts are profound – especially for children.

Excuses, excuses…

So what’s going on? How is it possible that so many people suffer so much through filthy, contaminated air?

A rush for profits? For progress? For economic advancement? A lack of technology? Insufficient knowledge? Clarity of thought? Understanding? Will? A short-termism that prioritised wealth over health? 

In truth it’s all these factors and more. Reasons, more often excuses, that in the not so distant future people will look back at in horror. A situation where people simply won’t believe that things were allowed to get so bad and stay so bad for so long.

A turning tide?

Thankfully, though belatedly, the weight of detailed research, visible interventions from the likes of WHO, an increasingly active green movement and high profile tragedies such as the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah are seeing attention at last turning to the issue of air pollution and how best to tackle it.

So much so that the language of particulates and respiratory health is even entering mainstream use. The government responded to Ella Kissi-Debrah’s death with, “We are delivering a £3.8 billion plan to clean up transport and tackle NO2 pollution, and going further in protecting communities from air pollution, particularly PM2.5 pollution, which we know is particularly harmful to people’s health.’

Which is great.

But while a public recognition of the issue and an ability to deploy the right words in addressing the issue is a positive sign, it’s the ability of governments and industry to actually do something about air pollution that really matters. Action that all of us will be judged on in the future. 

Part of the problem? Or part of the solution?

Signs are mixed. For example, despite the UK Government’s recognition that we all need to be protected from toxic air, and despite pledging funds to fight that cause, it has so far voted against proposals to put WHO pollution limits into UK law, arguing that they’re ‘uneconomical.’

‘Were you part of the problem or part of the solution?’ we’ll all be asked in the not too distant future.

Which is why we do what we do here at Trolex – to be a very proud and purposeful part of the solution. 

Enquire today about our new AIR XD Dust Monitor and XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor in our real-time dust monitoring range – accurate, simple to use, easy to maintain, real-time particulate detection technology that keeps people safe. 

Why RPE is the ultimate safety technology

In an ideal world, the risk of dangerous airborne particles simply wouldn’t exist in the workplace. We cannot understate how important respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is, even compared to all the other safety technologies available.

The proper application of the Hierarchy of Controls (HoC), though Elimination, Substitution, Engineering, Administration and personal protective equipment (PPE) would mitigate the threat and make sure that everyone was properly protected. 

The unfortunate reality is that many workers still face threats from a wide range of hazardous dust and particulates, such as silica, construction dust, fibreglass, wood, asbestos and many more. Respiratory protective equipment is one of the most effective safety technologies against silica dust and other harmful inhalants.

While every stage of the HoC can play an important role in helping to make workplaces safer, it’s the final stage, the PPE/RPE – the provision and proper wearing of suitably selected and fit tested RPE – that presents the biggest challenge.

Why?

Because too often, RPE fails to provide the protection that providers or wearers think it does.

Avoiding IPPI equipment

The IPPI test is a good way to make sure the RPE and PPE you provide – or have been provided – is fit for purpose. Before entering any environment where there’s a risk of harmful dust inhalation, it’s important to check whether the RPE is:

  • Inappropriate – the wrong equipment for the wrong job
  • Poorly maintained – RPE needs to be kept in good condition and properly maintained and stored
  • Poorly explained – the employee lacks sufficient training and information on the correct use of the RPE provided
  • Ill-fitting – loose fitting or poorly maintained masks with gaps around the edges allows dangerous dust to be inhaled.

The Construction Dust Partnership (an industry collaboration that helps help construction industry contractors, employers, operatives and others manage the risk of exposure to dusts and raise awareness) says, ‘any gaps around the RPE’s edges allow the contaminant-laden air to pass straight to the nose/mouth and be inhaled into the lungs.’ 

For example, did you know that beards or stubble can severely impact the performance of RPE?

‘If the wearer has stubble where the RPE seals to the face, this will make an adequate seal between the skin and the RPE impossible. A lack of knowledge or understanding on how to wear RPE correctly can often lead to an unrealistic expectation of protection.’

In other words, people are working with a false sense of security. Not only must the RPE be fit for purpose, but proper training and guidance must be provided on its use – like any other piece of health and safety technology or equipment. Better would be for checks to be made before entering areas with hazardous substances.

The paradox of RPE

There’s nothing more dangerous than thinking you’re safe when in reality you’re not. When you’re labouring under the illusion that your RPE is protecting you from harm and all it’s doing is placing you squarely in harm’s way, it’s a big problem.

“People are not so good at assessing exposure to a risk,” says risk perception expert Ann Bostrom, of University of Washington. 

It’s something we’ve seen clearly during the Covid pandemic. Masks acting as signifiers of safety rather than providing genuine protection.

A dangerous combination of availability and confirmation bias, the psychology is explained in this Forbes article, drawing comparisons between respiratory protective equipment and seatbelts. It cites a report that shows people drive faster and more recklessly when they wear seatbelts. The same applies to cyclists riding less cautiously when wearing helmets.

So what’s the answer? If industry is consistently failing to apply the Hierarchy of Controls well enough to protect workers, or even worse, lulling workers into a dangerously false sense of security, what can businesses do to properly protect their people?

The answer is surprisingly simple.

Personal wearable dust monitoring technology

Real-time dust monitoring that gives you an accurate, realtime understanding of the dust threat you and your workers face.

Properly detecting previously unseen and undetectable threats – seeing it as a real danger, not abstract – allows you to properly challenge it. And in the process, your RPE reclaims its proper protective value – a specific, contextual and essential value.

To be clear, dust monitoring is not a reason to not wear RPE and PPE, but it can make sure you’re aware when the environment changes and whether your equipment is appropriate for the situation you find yourself in.

Instead of being taken for granted, worn out of habit, ‘just in case’ or ‘because that’s the way we do it,’ RPE transforms from dangerous IPPI to safe APPW.

What is APPW?

Instead of IPPI equipment, APPW is respiratory protective equipment that’s:

  • appropriate – the right equipment for the right job
  • properly maintained – RPE is kept in good condition, properly maintained and stored
  • properly explained – the employee gets all the training and information on the correct use of the RPE provided they need
  • worn correctly – well fitting RPR that prevents the inhalation of dangerous particles 

Get in touch today to find out more about how our new AIR XD Dust Monitor, XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor, XD1+ Personal Dust Monitor and AIR XS Silica Monitor  – accurate, simple to use, easy to maintain, real-time particulate detection technology – helps your teams use their RPE more effectively.

The new ISO standard 23875 that will save lives

As any responsible employer knows – a clear threat to the health and welfare of your staff demands a clear response.

In industries such as construction, mining, tunnelling and manufacturing, the obvious risks to health posed by clouds of workplace dust can be tackled in new and different ways. Some precautions and protections include:

  • staff wearing PPE;
  • the installation of dust monitoring equipment;
  • the application of various dust suppression techniques such as spraying water, or using local exhaust ventilation (LEV) or on-tool extraction.

With more awareness of the dangers of dust inhalation, these protections become more effective as they are applied more extensively across different scenarios and environments.

However, dust monitors and other other equipment are only part of the story.

The dust you don’t see coming.

More dangerous than the dust you can see, is the dust you can’t see.

Dust can reach beyond the frontline workers benefiting from protection to threaten support and ancillary staff nearby.

An unfortunate consequence of focusing efforts solely on frontline workers is there are other members of the team who aren’t monitored and protected. Plant and equipment operators working in enclosed cabins, for example, might assume they’re safe but, with microscopic airborne hazards so hard to detect, they’re still exposed to serious amounts of risk.

This is one of the main reasons for the introduction of a new international standard for a consistent approach to designing, testing, operating, and maintaining the air-quality systems of operator enclosures – ISO 23875.

A standard that recognises and responds to the extent of the dangers caused by dust right across a working environment.

A universally popular standard.

It’s a move that’s been welcomed across the board, with the Australian Mining Safety Journal and Mining Review Africa writing, ‘the new standard is likely to place a greater emphasis on the air quality inside the cabin than previously addressed.’

A recent ISO workshop run by Jeff Moredock, Lead at the ISO Working Group, advertised that the new cabin air standard will ‘Improve operator alertness, create a safer work environment and increase productivity.’

Of course, the big question is how do you properly assess the air quality in your cabin? How can you enforce a new and improved standard if you’re not able to accurately record particulate levels in real time?

New standards in dust monitoring for new ISO standard 23875.

This makes the introduction of new, wearable or in-cab, real-time dust monitoring technology, such as the XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor, so timely.

The XD ONE is low cost, lightweight, easy to use, easy to maintain and 5 times more accurate than other devices. It continually measures every particle from as small as 0.38 to 40 μm. By issuing every operator an XD ONE, they’re constantly reading the air quality in their immediate environment and instantly alerted to any danger.

What difference can a real-time personal dust monitor make?

In the past, dust monitors were large, clunky pieces of technology that needed to be placed in an area you expected to be hazardous. This was time consuming and took multiple workers to place, set-up and maintain and was inaccurate and often not in real time. 

As this equipment has developed, it can now be worn by workers to monitor the dust particles in the space directly around their airways.

The XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor also delivers results in real-time, making it an important part of any safety system or process. Dust can be released at any point and isn’t always noticeable. It can also travel long distances on very slight air currents, so the more warning employees have, the better they can react.

Time you took a closer look at real-time operator cabin monitoring?

With new regulations pushing for better safety measures and standards in hazardous workplaces and environments, you need to stay on top of everything. Your workers will also benefit, and this keeps them working for longer. 

Get in touch today for more details on how the XD ONE Portable Dust Monitor can help you align with ISO Standard 23875 as well as protect workers across your whole site from the danger of microscopic airborne dust.