AMSJ » Mine accommodation exceeds safety limits during lockdown

Mine accommodation exceeds safety limits during lockdown

Manigurr-Ma Camp
A typical accommodation camp

Experts found some relocatable dwellings have potentially hazardous air quality while workers quarantine.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) recently warned carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can exceed the 1000 parts per million threshold within hours at poorly ventilated mine accommodation.

CSIRO’s Early Research Career (CERC) program found dongas, and other well-sealed rooms, have a high risk of elevated CO2 levels during pandemic-related lockdowns – especially when doors and windows remain closed. Operating a split-system air conditioner can also reduce air quality, especially in hot and dusty environments, potentially leading to fatigue, nausea and impaired cognitive function.

“Air conditioning is not the best for air quality, it can just reduce the humidity but nothing in terms of improving air quality,” CERC research fellow Mahsan Sadeghi said according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“If you have a high level of carbon dioxide inside the home, it means that there is poor home ventilation and air does not circulate regularly.”

Federal legislation requires buildings to include natural or mechanical ventilation to maintain sufficient air quality. However, occupants are responsible for opening doors and windows.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) urged employers to let workers isolate at their permanent residence during outbreaks.

“If it is safe enough for them to go to work with certain protocols, surely it should be safe enough to put some protocols around flying these people home,” CFMEU WA district secretary Greg Busson said according to the broadcaster.

Although BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group claimed they already encourage employees to open donga doors and windows to improve ventilation, Sadeghi believes employers should also install exhaust fans and automated CO2 monitors at all mine accommodation.

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