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Safety and health in mines research advisory board

Annual Review 2005


Mine Environment

Improved gas capture and climate control within high performance workings

Mines Rescue Service Ltd (MRSL) is a partner in this project, part funded from the EC Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS), set up following the expiry of the ECSC treaty, through contract  RFC-CR-03010 (SAFETECH).

The project is intended to examine how arduous climatic and environmental conditions impact on workers, together with investigating how climate issues affect the successful outcome of emergency activities.  The overall objective of MRSL’s work is to provide an improved understanding of the ability and shortfalls of working, emergency procedures and rescue as depth and distances increase in coal mines.

Earlier research was undertaken on the feasibility of developing an ATEX intrinsically safe instrument to monitor Basic Effective Temperature (BET).  A provisional design has now been finalised and this is described within the EU interim reports, together with concluding remarks on development criteria and feasibility issues.

Previous research within the project, into developing an integrated thermal risk methodology, showed that there remains an incomplete understanding of how arduous working conditions and high heat and humidity affect the probability of successful outcome of self-escape or assisted escape.  On-going study will contribute to the development of a combined risk assessment and modelling methodology, with the objective of providing a more systematic and comprehensive approach, with a better understanding of the complex interaction of the various site, physical, environmental and physiological parameters.

Research during the year concentrated on completing the build of an environmental chamber at Rawdon Rescue Station and the initiation of a set of trials to monitor the core body temperature and heart rate during simulated rescue activities of rescue personnel within the chamber, under controlled conditions of high heat and humidity. The objective of this work is to provide data on how the body can deal with hot and humid conditions.  Rescue workers from a range of mines and full time rescue brigades took part.  A range of baseline tests were conducted to give comparison data of exercises conducted with and without breathing apparatus. The range of environmental conditions was varied from ambient heat and humidity to high heat and humidity levels.

Other research has led to the development of a proto-type BG4 breathing apparatus with a rehydration system. The system has been tested and found to be extremely effective in maintaining core body temperatures during exercises carried out under a range of conditions. The system makes use of the melted water from the ice block within the heat exchanger unit of the BG4.  Test candidates demonstrated a major improvement in the way they felt during hot conditions whilst wearing their breathing apparatus sets and being able to sip water during any tests. It was also demonstrated that with careful consumption, the water would be available over a considerable period of time.

Other work was successfully completed into devising a system which prevents visor fogging whilst wearing breathing apparatus.  The project continues and is due to be completed by February 2007.

Training mineworkers for hot inspired air when wearing self-rescuers

MRSL started work on this project for HSE towards the end of 2005.  The modelling and design was completed of a prototype long duration hot air simulation device to be used in subsequent physiological trials.  A risk assessment of the hot air device has started. This is considered an important issue, given that the volunteer subjects may be asked to wear the device for extended periods within the trial protocol.

It has further identified that the modelling of inspired air temperature of a generic filter self-rescuer (FSR) operating in challenging atmospheres, >~1% carbon monoxide (CO), cannot presently be reconciled with the BS EN 404 test limits of 90°C dry bulb, 50°C wet bulb.  Possible reasons for the lack of reconciliation are subject to further investigation.

Updated 2009-05-22