Human Vibration Levels In The South African Mining Industry

Niekerk, J. L. van
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
The research project reported on represents the first comprehensive attempt to measure the vibration levels of a variety of tools and equipment in the South African mining industry to determine the effect thereof on the health of workers and operators. Although human vibration has been studied extensively internationally only one reference pertaining to the South African mining industry could be found. From studies conducted in Canada and elsewhere it was evident that rock drills do have potentially hazardous levels of vibration. The scope of the research included measurements on a broad spectrum of tools, machines and vehicles used in the South African mining industry. Both hand-arm vibration, where the majority of the vibration enter the body through the hands, and whole body vibration, where the whole body is exposed to vibration through contact by the buttocks or feet, were investigated and measured. More than 700 sets of vibration data measured on 70 machines at 15 mines and workshops were obtained. Data were obtained for at least 24 different types of equipment and machines that were previously judged to have medium to high levels of vibration. All measurements were conducted in accordance with the international standards: ISO 5349, on hand-arm vibration, and ISO 2631-1, for whole body vibration. The equipment with the highest vibration levels in the hand-arm category was: rock drills, both pneumatic and hydraulic; pavement breakers and jackhammers; hand-held compactors; pneumatic wrenches and electrical hammer drills. Of these the rock drills had weighted vibration levels in excess of 20 m/s2. As far as whole body vibration was concerned the highest values were measured on earth-moving equipment. The major conclusion from this study is that the measured vibration levels are sufficiently high to create an enhanced level of risk of vibration-induced disorders in a significant proportion of the operators of hand-held equipment. The most notable examples are hand-held rock drills, pavement breakers, jackhammers and certain selected workshop tools. The results of the study indicate that a comprehensive epidemiological study should be undertaken on present and past workers to determine the prevalence of vibration-induced disorders.
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