Friday, 10 July 2020
Industry Q&A: Diesel Particulate Matter in the Mining Sector Part 2
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Industry Q&A: Diesel Particulate Matter in the Mining Sector Part 2

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. See part 1 here

Q3. Being a finalist in a national, and internationally recognised, competition such as the Australian Technologies is an incredible achievement. Can you tell us about the journey you went on through the competition, what you learned, and how it’s help to improve your business?

Pinssar never started the program to collect accolades and therefore we had never considered entering competitions. The problem with awards and grants is that they use up a lot of valuable resources and time across what is essentially a very small team, trying to do what most organization would employ large departments to fulfill. However, what attracted Pinssar to this competition was the opportunity to develop a concise business plan with the support of an assigned mentor to help us through this process - over a period of some 6 months.

The workshop activity at the beginning of the competition was one of the best events I have attended during my business career. The subjects were; to the point relevant and all issues and questions raised were responded to in a frank and open manner that proved to be highly instructive and had direct application to the business.

The pressure of writing a concise business plan and the willingness and dedication of the mentor to understand and improve the business were gains that I had not envisaged when embarking on this journey.

This process forced the team to focus on the important and critical issues. Often small business operates in the urgent and burn a lot of energy and resources with limited outcomes.

The other benefit of the whole team working on the business plan meant that the entire team has developed a clear and mutual understanding of the long and short-term goals which helps us focus as one team.

This process allowed the team to be coached by an experienced executive with no direct connection with the day to day running of the business, but understood the business principals and queried decisions and goals and their relative importance. Reviewing a business plan through the eyes of an outsider helps taking bias out of the plan and helps to highlight the important issues.

If asked, I would recommend to any start-up to join the program. However, you will only get out of it what you are prepared to put into it.

Q4. Francois, you just got back from participating in AFTES, the international tunnelling conference, in Paris. What innovations and safety initiatives are being implemented in Europe, that the underground mining sector here in Australia can learn from?

The recent trip to Europe was a further vindication of the Pinssar message, that is promoting DPM is a Group1 carcinogen and that real-time monitoring of these particles is essential. Whilst no sites in Europe are currently monitoring DPM particles in real-time there is increased pressure from the public to better understand the consequences of all this across major construction sites, particularly in build-up environment. People are worrying about the consequences of pollution to the health of children and elderly people. Whilst in London the Lord Mayor recently stopped one project to go to tender because of concerns that DPM levels generated from the tunnel extraction fans might make the general population exposed to unacceptable level.  Consequently, the winning consortium will have to include a sophisticated filtering and continuous real-time DPM monitoring system to appease the general population about exposure levels not being aggravated because they live near a tunnel.

During my stay in the UK I met with the regulators who assured me that they are reviewing the standards for air quality in tunnel construction. A critical item on the review panel agenda is the real-time monitoring of DPM. They are aware that the current standards set in 2011, prior to the WHO2012 decree, are out dated and need to specifically address DPM. Pinssar has developed and is launching real-time continuous monitoring system for this specific purpose. At the request of the International Tunnel Society, Pinssar will present our innovative real-time DPM Monitoring System at the upcoming World Tunneling Conference in Dubai in April 2018.

The Paris conference was yet further proof that tunneling in Europe is a hot topic. The three-day event was very well attended by some 4,000 registered attendees and interest in the Pinssar innovation further justified our believe that real-time continuous DPM monitoring is a must have and not simply a luxury. We presented to contractors, consultancy agencies and regulators with mutual positive response. Whilst to date no Pinssar Monitoring System has been installed in tunnel construction we are actively working with European integrators to find a suitable site where we can demonstrate our DPM Monitoring System.

Comparatively, reaction is similar to that within Australia. However, it seems that there is a higher resolve in Europe to address this DPM problem. Whether this occurs is another matter but the pressure from the public to do something about the pollution levels is more visible in Europe and the UK than in Australia. Europe only has a limited mining industry but in discussions with Euromines, it became apparent that real-time DPM monitoring and reduction of workforce risk and exposure is high on the agenda. Euromines have published a document recommending their members measure CO, NO and NOx. However, these are surrogate gasses with some correlation to DPM, but they do not measure the mass of DPM particles, which is the Group1 carcinogen and the real cause of potential health risk.

The Pinssar DPM Monitoring System has the potential to become the Global Standard for DPM monitoring and management, and is currently the only continuous, real-time monitoring capable of delivering timely and reliable DPM data that can facilitate immediate action response to unacceptable DPM levels, to protect the safety and health of workers and the public at large.   

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