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MINERS HEALTH

Chemical hazards to watch in the workplace

In mining almost every process involves using or creating a chemical hazard of some sort. If you know what chemicals to look out for, you know what measures to take to prevent exposure. Hazardous chemicals are found in many locations on mine sites. Here are some to look out for when you work.

Process plants and refineries

A wide range of hazardous chemicals are found in process plants and refineries. Acids like sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sodium hydroxide, sodium cyanide. Xanthates, solvents and compressed gases are also common in process plants and refineries. Chemicals like sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen are often generated with mineral ore processing.

Laboratories
Mine site labs have the largest variety of chemicals in any mining operation, usually in relatively small quantities. Acids used to break down materials usually present the greatest risk, however all chemicals should be handled appropriately.

Gold rooms
For safety and security reasons, limited employees will have access to mine site gold rooms, however common hazardous chemicals used in them are acids, cyanide and fluxes. Ammonia ,lead, arsenic and mercury are also common for processing.

Workshops
Mine site workshops usually have low hazard levels from use of oils, greases and lubricants, however solvents for cleaning, paint chemicals or dust hazards generated during sandblasting or grinding are common. Fumes from welding and cutting or from vehicle exhausts are a common issue, and diesel emissions carry a number of toxic chemicals.

All sites are required to outline what chemical hazards are present, and establish and maintain a hazardous chemical monitoring system.

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AMSJ Summer 2020