World Mining Congress

Dr. med. V. Schenk

RAG Aktiengesellschaft

Shamrockring 1

D-44623 Herne

Dust exposure resulting from the exploitation and winning of natural resources below ground has presented a serious health problem since the beginning of mining. The boom phase of the German hard coal mining industry after World War II with at times up to 500,000 employees saw an increase of dust exposure of miners below ground as the mechanization of road heading and mining increased significantly. More and more miners were diagnosed with coal-workers-pneumoconiosis (CWP), a chronic and irreversible lung disease resulting in a significant impairment of pulmonary function. This realization led to a reduction of CWP in the German hard coal mining industry in the 1960s. The successful fight against CWP began with the introduction of technical dust prevention measures. By infusing the coal seam with water before mining, sprinkling and spraying of heading and mining machines as well as canopies with water, aspiration in places with high amounts of dust and the suppression of dust with chemical substances it is possible to significantly reduce the miners’ dust exposure. All operating points below ground are checked and measured regularly with regard to dust exposure. Through the combination of these values together with the individual shift data a relatively precise profile of individual dust exposure can be obtained. This profile allows the targeted work assignment when certain predetermined limits have been reached, moving the miner to a work place with less dust exposure and thus reducing the chronic dust exposure.

The state of health of the individual is known because since about 60 years ago extensive occupational health checks have been carried out regularly at least every two years which means that work restrictions can be imposed depending on the findings.

Since the beginning of the 1980s more value has been attached to not only situational but also behavioral prevention. Given the comprehensive provision of protective masks, having a protective effect as well as the required comfort when being worn, each miner has the opportunity to protect his respiratory organs depending on the specific dust exposure.

Through a combination of all these measures the German hard coal mining industry has succeeded in beating the classic coal miner’s disease CWP. For mines in the Ruhr valley this means that a miner who started work after 1978 will no longer develop CWP.
Keywords: Dust; mining; Coal; Coal Mining; Health; Prevention; Protection;
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