In a mine operation, baggers come into contact with dust more than any other worker – putting them at serious risk, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Because mine dust contains large quantities of silica, baggers have to be certain to limit their exposure to prevent potentially deadly conditions.
Even the smallest dust particles can enter the lungs and cause damage. Occupational dust particles often are so small they are not visible to the naked eye. But because the dust is not visible does not mean it is not harmful. Dust containing silica can cause silicosis, a sometimes fatal disease that severely scars lung tissue, making breathing a challenge.
To prevent overexposure to dust, MSHA recommends baggers:
- Spout bags correctly to prevent bag blow-off.
- Do not jog the fill valve to get a bulk sample.
- Do not jerk the bag from the spout: prevent rooster tail.
- Do not toss filled mine dust bags on a pallet – place them gently to prevent dust-up.
- Do not dry sweep, as this spreads more dust into the air.
- Use a water or vacuum system with a HEPA filter.
- Keep the work area clean.
- Do not use compressed air for cleaning.
- Be sure all equipment is properly adjusted.
- Report all systems or maintenance problems immediately.
- Ensure respirators fit and are worn properly.