Measurement of dust levels
From 1 September 2020, the occupational exposure limits (OEL) for respirable dust and respirable crystalline silica (RCS) are 1.5mg/m3 and 0.05mg/m3 respectively.
Monitoring of a worker's health is legally required when the hazard has the potential to exceed exposure limits or the level of risk from the hazard varies.
Mine operators must have a documented way of managing dust and a strict monitoring program to ensure dust exposure is kept to an acceptable level and statutory exposure standards are met. Part of this system must include monitoring to determine workers' exposure to airborne concentration of dust particles.
Section 136 of the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Regulation 2017 requires that relevant Australian or national standards be followed for monitoring or analysis. The relevant standards are shown below. The Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017 specifies the use of Australian standard AS 2985.
From 1 January 2017, the task of carrying out respirable dust sampling at a coal mine in accordance with AS 2985 will be listed as a prescribed task for section 76(3)(a) of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999. This means any person carrying out respirable dust sampling at a coal mine in accordance with AS 2985 must have the recognised competencies as determined by the Coal Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee.
Due to the long latency of many respiratory diseases it is essential that workers' exposure to dust particles be minimised. Undertaking personal monitoring on a regular basis will facilitate the identification of workers at risk of developing respiratory diseases from occupational sources.
Records of this monitoring must be kept for at least 30 years due to the long latency of many respiratory diseases and their serious health implications.
Standards recommended/required for the measurement of dust in mines
|Fraction being measured||Standard|
|Respirable dust||AS 2985 Workplace atmospheres - method for sampling and gravimetric determination of respirable dust (available from SAI Global)|
|Inhalable dust||AS 3640 Workplace atmospheres - method for sampling and gravimetric determination of inhalable dust (available from SAI Global)|
|Crystalline silica||AS 2985 Workplace atmospheres - method for sampling and gravimetric determination of respirable dust (available from SAI Global)|
|Lead||National standard for the control of inorganic lead at work [NOHSC: 1012]|
|Other airborne dusts||Various|