A story published by Safe To Work has highlighted how improperly maintained mobile air conditioning systems (MACs) can pose significant health issues.
Safe To Work, which documents safety matters in the Australian mining sector, reported that a mobile plant operator has been diagnosed with a lung disease after 35 years’ work in civil construction and open-cut coal mining.
The New South Wales Resources Regulator, which monitors health and safety at mines and petroleum sites, has called attention to several factors that may have contributed to the worker’s illness.
One aspect was that the operator, while in the civil works field, used equipment with enclosed cabins and air conditioning systems.
Equipment must be maintained to ensure its effectiveness and prevent respirable particles entering and circulating the cabin. Also, if the air conditioning is ineffective, the operator may resort to using the equipment with windows or doors open, negating any protection.
The Regulator asserts that both clogged and inoperative air conditioning systems, and damaged cabin seals, were among the issues contributing to the plant operator’s lung issues – which include pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema, both of which will require long-term treatment.
A lack of personal protective equipment, such as a basic mask, was also not required in practice in some of the operator’s mining jobs. This, as a result, compounded any other potential respiratory issues.
Mine operators have since been asked by the Regulator to carry out checks on the suitability and actual employment of their airborne contaminant protection methods. Regular health checks are also encouraged.