According to a retired Department of Mines Safety Inspector the presence of diesel fumes is potentially affecting the health of miners working underground.
In a Perth Now report the former safety inspector claimed that the 10,000 underground miners in the state are at risk by breathing in the “cancer causing chemical” and that the potential impact as an industrial killer could have a greater impact than asbestos.
The World Health Organisation’s cancer research branch lists diesel, which has tiny carbon particles that make their way deep into the lungs in the exhaust fumes, as a carcinogenic.
The reason that underground miners are seen at risk is that much of the machinery that they use if powered by diesel and the exhaust fumes do not naturally leave the mine shafts.
In 2011 a top priority-working group was established. The group is chaired by the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy and including the Department of Mines and Petroleum, however the guidelines are due to be finished next year.
The Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists has been waring since 2004 that this serious issue has not been treated seriously.
The former safety inspector that the risk to workers is not only diesel particulate but also dust and blast fumes. He claims that exhaust filters should be compulsory, ventilation must be improved and that mining companies should not be the ones that are responsible for air testing.
The mines department has said that diesel particulate should not exceed 0.1 milligrams per cubic metre of submicron elemental carbon. Each mine is required to submit the results of their air quality testing and if the levels are exceeded then the mine will be shut down.
This year inspectors, for breaches of ventilation or air quality regulations, have already closed two mines because the department recognises that exposure to the emissions from diesel engines must be kept to a minimum.