Industry Q&A: Diesel Particulate Matter in the Mining Sector Part 1
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that diesel engine exhaust emissions cause cancer in humans and they say that diesel particulate matter (DPM) belongs in the same potentially deadly category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas. This has particular relevance to underground mining, where diesel equipment is operating in confined areas and workers are subject to potentially hazardous exhaust fumes in their day-to-day operations. Pinssar are world-leaders in DPM monitoring technology and we recently caught up with their Managing Director Francois Velge to discuss managing this safety priority and their innovative technology that recently saw them being a finalist at the Australian Technologies Competition.
Q1. Pinssar has developed the world’s first diesel particulate matter (DPM) air monitoring system. Can you explain why DPM is such a critical factor for monitoring in mines, both in regards to safety and productivity?
The World Health Organization declared Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) a Group1 carcinogen in 2012. This classification is the same as asbestos and nicotine.
To date DPM has been measured randomly in the mining and construction industry. The main method of personnel monitoring is gravimetric measurement using the NIOSH 5040 method. This method collects particles during the entire shift on a cassette. The samples are forwarded to a lab that then analyses the cassettes and sends the results back to mine. This process can take up to three weeks and whilst results are useful for the sampled person, they are rarely used by mine management to improve the quality of the air as they are not directly relatable to the mine ventilation system.
The Pinssar Monitoring System was specifically developed to save lives by making sure that the ventilation system produces the right amount, at the right time and to the right place. When it comes to DPM the solution is dilution. The monitoring system is very reactive to changes in the quality of air which allows for immediate action to reduce the risk of exposure to mine workers.
The Pinssar Monitoring System is, to date, the only system that measures in real-time the density of particles smaller than 800nm in harsh environments. This is relevant as particles of that size can penetrate in alveoli and potentially mutate healthy cells into cancerogenous cells. The key benefit to the mine operator is to make sure that they are confident that all their workers operate in a safe and healthy environment.
Added benefits are in the understanding of the DPM base load of the mine and how, through a regulated ventilation system, there is potential for power savings. Further once the DPM base load is understood it will allow management to implement better controls to continuously reduce the DPM load. This in turn will enable mine management to purchase the optimal fleet for their site while keeping their work environment healthy and in so doing reduce the risk of exposure to the U/G workers.
Q2. Your DPM monitoring system is an impressive innovation: how does Pinssar embrace and drive innovation within your company? What has driven your passion for innovation, especially in its link to safety?
Pinssar was created some 4 years ago with the specific purpose of saving lives as we realized that to date there has been no instrumentation that could continuously measure particles smaller than 800nm in harsh environment. This meant that thousands of people were exposed daily to what the WHO had declared to be a Group1 carcinogen. That risk was deemed unacceptable by a small group of entrepreneurs who then embarked on this journey of developing the first real-time DPM Monitoring System for harsh environments.
Whilst the initial commitment was mutual the struggle to come up with viable solution meant that most the members chose to leave the team to pursue other ventures. However, a core nucleus of highly committed people stayed put and a new research team evolved around this nucleus. All innovation projects require perseverance and true believers that want to see the fruit of their product change the world. Rarely though, are we given such a chance to develop such a life changing instrument as the Pinssar Monitoring System.
Everybody working at Pinssar knew that product would make the world a safer place and had the potential of saving thousands of lives. Without that goal I’m not sure that we would have persevered in our endeavors to deliver this product to the market.