Managing blast fumes
Blast fumes are gases that may be generated during blasting. These can include nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, which can seriously affect people's health, so it's vital to manage them.
- Use our fume reporting template (DOCX, 394KB) to report on blast fumes. For further information, read our explanatory notes for fume reporting template (DOCX, 23KB).
- See Guidance Note 20: Management of oxides of nitrogen in open cut blasting (PDF, 2.5MB) for more information.
Characteristics of blast fumes
Blast fumes are usually a reddish/orange cloud. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gives the cloud this colour, which becomes deeper with higher NO2 concentrations.
Blast fumes also have a pungent odour and taste. NO2 has a very strong acrid odour that can be smelled at much lower levels than the tolerable limits. At low levels, the effects are extremely unlikely to be harmful to health, particularly if you can't see the reddish/brown gas.
NO2 above 2.5 parts-per-million (ppm) is visible. Concentrations above 4ppm may deaden the sense of smell.
Symptoms of overexposure
- Eye irritation and coughing
- Initial dizziness and/or headache (may subside)
- Shortness of breath
- Cyanosis (blue lips, fingertips) 5–8 hours later
Responding to exposure
Immediately report exposure to your supervisor and follow the site medical plan. If a medical practitioner examines and releases you but you develop symptoms later, seek urgent medical attention.
There is a level of tolerable exposure that people can deal with. The short-term exposure limit (STEL) for NO2 is 5ppm. STEL exposures should not last longer than 15 minutes and not be repeated more than 4 times a day with at least 60 minutes between successive exposures.
Mine sites should work towards preventing fume generation. However, where this isn't possible, they should keep fume exposures below the STEL.
Preventing exposure to blast fumes
- Comply with blast-exclusion zones and fume-management zones.
- Inform blast controller of fume clouds, and their location and movement.
- Do not enter or remain in fume clouds.
- Move out of fume cloud path.
- Wear gas monitors if directed.
You can measure NOx using portable gas detectors. Calibrate and set monitors correctly before use.