Sixteen mineworkers were rushed to hospitals following a mining incident at the Peabody Metropolitan Colliery early this morning.
According to a statement obtained by AMSJ the mineworkers were exposed to cement dust during the spraying of a seal in a production panel. The workers were reportedly working inbye of the sealing area and were overcome with airborne cement dust in the course of their activities.
A statement released by a spokesperson for Peabody Metrolpolian Colliery said that “during the course of of a routine longwall move, dust entered an area of the Metropolitan mine, currently being developed. As part of the mine’s strict safety and health protocols, sixteen employees working in the area were taken to a medical facility as a precautionary measure. All employees have now been discharged with no adverse health impacts. Peabody said it had notified the NSW Resources Regulator of the incident.”
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Exposure to cement dusts
According to Safework Australia’s workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants, cement dusts typically have exposure standards of 10 mg/m3 however in some circumstances Portland cement dusts may contain silica and in extreme cases a portion of asbestos fibres. In these cases the exposure standards are substantially reduced to the known carcinogen exposure standard.
Materials used in seal compounds typically include a combination of Portland cement, calcium sulfate, calcium sulphoaluminate, ferrous metal and calcium hydroxide. Safety Data Sheets can highlight that the materials are known to cause skin irritation, allergic skin reactions, serious eye damage and respiratory irritation.
Questions must be asked of Peabody
An incident of this type raises a range of questions regarding the Peabody Metropolitan Coal’s risk assessment and risk management activities. Why did this incident happen in the first place? This is a common mining task and the hazards associated with spraying seals (particularly in an inbye area) are well known. As one miner told AMSJ “It’s a no brainer that you don’t have guys working directly inbye of a spraying activity. What the F$#% were they thinking?”
The NSW Resources Regulator has not provided comment on the incident at this stage but it is expected that a comprehensive investigation will raise a range of concerns around the mine’s procedures and pre-start risk assessments of the activity.
AMSJ has contacted Peabody for comment.
Image: Supplied Peabody Energy – Metropolitan Colliery Operations
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