Talk to anyone in the industrial healthcare sector and it will become immediately clear that hearing loss in mine operators is one of the most common occupational health and safety challenges confronting every mine site across the country.
The common practices of blasting and crushing and the use of heavy machinery mean that dangerous noise generation is an unavoidable by-product of mining and mineral processing.
According to a report from Safe Work Australia, for the years 2010-2011 in mining, a full quarter of workers’ compensation claims were related to deafness and the terrible effects that hearing loss has on the quality of life for miners.
Settling these claims presents an expensive proposition for mining companies. Reducing the prevalence of this problem reduces the healthcare cost burden placed on companies, which means they can allocate more of their capital to resource extraction and less of it on compensation.
One difficult problem in this area is that hearing loss can be difficult to detect because it builds up gradually over time as workers are exposed to noise.
In order to gain some control over this problem, to get a clearer idea of the noise hazards workers are exposed to on a day-to-day basis, constant and sophisticated monitoring of noise exposure is fundamental.
Companies are regulated by law to implement noise monitoring systems into their operations, and Svantek’s portable and wearable noise and vibration monitoring devices present operators with the most comprehensive and sophisticated system on the market.
Distributed by Acu-Vib Electronics, a calibrations and acoustic instrument supplier/repair specialist based in NSW, Svantek’s products solve a range of problems facing mine operators across Australia. To begin with, let’s examine its noise monitoring offerings.
SV104iS and SV104A
For the personal worker, Acu-Vib offers the SV104iS and SV104A noise dosimeters. Both of these devices are small, light-weight, compact and cable-free, which means they easily attach to the worker’s shoulder and don’t get in the way of the work or inhibit natural bodily movement.
Throughout the working day, these dosimeters record audio events through an attached life-time warranty microphone and offer real-time analysis, transmitted to an OLED display screen visible in full daylight or darkness.
Unlike traditional dosimeters, this means that regardless of working conditions, the worker can swiftly and easily check on potentially hazardous noise exposure on a clear and brightly-lit display screen.
The SV104iS is intrinsically safe in accordance with ATEX and IECEx regulations, ideal for underground mining conditions in which, for example, exposed batteries are prohibited.
More specifically, the SV104iS features a robust ½ inch shock-resistant MEMS microphone, with a large dynamic range of 90db. This allows the device to measure noise from 60dbA to 140dBA. Health and safety regulations stipulate that average noise exposure above 85dBA over an eight-hour working day is considered hazardous, and this dosimeter is perfectly designed to track these levels.
The SV104A dosimeter features a single large measurement range of 53dB to 141dB, enabling measurement in all kinds of working environments.
An ingenious feature of SV104A is its auto-calibration technique. Once the device detects a calibration signal, it calibrates automatically, saving the calibration data together with the measurement file, before and after measurement.
Harsh working environments means inevitable damage to equipment. Like the SV104iS, the SV104A features a MEMS microphone specifically designed to withstand the harsh working conditions of mining environments.
The microphone can be knocked to the ground and it won’t go out of service, reducing maintenance costs while keeping a company’s noise monitoring obligations running and functional.
The SV104A has Bluetooth communication, easily linking to the Svantek’s app Assistant, available via Google Playstore. In this way, workers can track and monitor their noise exposure in real-time through their smartphone.
Along with the skilful design of these wearable devices, the software underpinning and propelling their usage is equally impressive. Both the SV104A and SV104iS link to an analysis system called Svan-supervisor.
Acu-Vib sales manager Julian Kielt revealed the remarkable capabilities of this system.
“It’s software that’s dedicated to occupational instrumentation and report generation,” he said.
“It comes free of charge. Some companies charge for the software, but with us you can download it for free. It comes automatically with any purchase. You can save the files, the set-up file, and then basically everyday you can just reload that setup file.
“Then you go on to site, strap in the device, the worker does his job, and then you download the report at the end of the day, and all the data is there.”
What is most impressive about Svan-supervisor is the precision of its data generation, and the predictive capabilities built into the system. Worker safety can be tracked and analysed to exact time and location.
“You can use the system to map out the worker’s day, and track at each point their exposure to a potential noise or vibration hazard,” Julian said.
“The exposure is recorded through the device and transmitted and analysed by Svan-supervisor. So you’re basically predicting how workers should operate, because the exposure might hit a certain level after three hours of work or so, the exposure might become too much, and then you can organise workflow to keep exposure within safe limits.
“You can pre-define all of that with the software, if someone needs to change a job, or move to a different section, after three of four hours, because of exposure. And then you can divide up an eight-hour or 10-hour day, to reduce noise exposure, and mitigate how much noise a worker is exposed to. It’s a sophisticated reporting software program with predictive capabilities.”
Furthermore, Svan-supervisor can analyse noise exposure captured over an hour and then stretch it out to calculate noise exposure over an eight-hour period.
In this way, from a single hour of work, the worker and the company can properly and accurately determine potential noise exposure across a full working day, and then act accordingly to mitigate any potential safety failure.
Svan-supervisor fulfills complex tasks, but the setup and running of it is relatively simple, and Acu-Vib’s team will happily guide companies through the ins-and-outs of the program.
This software program is also tied to Svantek’s range of vibration monitoring devices. Like noise hazards, worker exposure to excessive and repeated vibration can have deleterious effects on health.
Hand-arm vibrations resulting from jackhammers and drills, for example, can lead to pathological changes in the nervous system of the hands and fingers, commonly called white finger disease.
SV103 and SV100A
There is no cure for damage to the nervous system caused by vibration, and so the only option for any company committed to worker safety is a preventative monitoring system.
The SV103 Hand-Arm Vibration Dosimeter and Analyser fulfills this function. The dosimeter attaches to a strap that wraps around the arm, linked in turn to the hand in which the vibration occurs.
Like Svantek’s noise vibration monitors, the SV103 is compact enough to take vibration measurements without interfering with normal working activities. Its integration with Svan-Supervisor supports data download, instrument configuration and provides a complete set of tools for the determination of occupational vibration exposure from measurements in accordance to ISO 5349-2 standards.
Measurement results are expressed in m2 and can be directly compared to limits given by the European Directive 2002/44/EC. It is also possible to convert units into Points widely used in the healthy and safety sector. Furthermore, all information displayed within the panel window is directly printable into a report.
For whole-body vibration monitoring, Svantek has designed the popular SV100A.
This device is particularly suitable for truck and heavy machinery operators and is already widely used throughout the Australian mining industry.
The instrument is fitted to the seat upon which the operator sits. The device is equipped with both RMS and RMQ detectors which allow the calculation of daily vibration exposure A(8) based on RMS and VDV simultaneously.
All measurement results are stored in a large 8GB internal memory, which permits continuous recording over long periods.
The Bluetooth interface enables current results to be previewed on a smartphone or tablet using the SvanMobile Android application. And like the noise monitoring devices, the mapping and predictive capabilities of Svan-supervisor makes this product particularly attractive and compelling.
“Imagine a miner is driving over a certain stretch of road. The SV100A tracks the vibration. It can then say, well, this miner shouldn’t go over this road for longer than four hours, because the vibration exposure will exceed set parameters,” Julian said.
“So he should then hand over to someone else. So a mine site can do its research, its measurements, and then figure out what these guys are encountering at work.
“You can map out the vibration that a worker is exposed to throughout the day, and with that data and information, you can create a sort of work log, saying workers can only work four hours at a time in this section of the site, and then they have to hand it over.”
This degree of precision is why Svantek’s noise and vibration monitoring systems are so remarkable.
The marriage of tough and compact hardware with intelligent software means that when a company purchases these products, it isn’t purchasing a simplistic monitoring system, but one that actively helps companies plan and map out a comprehensive and effective safety regime, all built upon precise data and real-time information flow.
SV200A and SV258 Pro
In addition to worker safety, Svantek has developed products to ensure that mines can operate under strict noise and vibration control guidelines designed to protect the surrounding environment and community relations.
The blasting of rock and ore generates noise and vibration, and if these exceed certain limits, and if a mine site is situated too close to a nearby residential zone, the quality of life of residents can be negatively impacted.
Svantek’s SV200A Noise Directivity Monitoring Terminal and its SV258 Pro Indoor/Outdoor Sound and Vibration Monitoring System will help companies comply with environmental regulations in a precise manner.
Both these systems are portable and easily established in the field by mounting them onto a heavy-duty tripod or a bracket. In the case of the SV258 Pro, it is designed for simultaneous noise monitoring and ground and structure vibration logging. It sits on the ground in a lockable case, nearby a structure of interest, to record.
The SV258 Pro provides broad-band vibration results such as RMS and Peak or Peak-Peak. It can also use FFT analysis for the determination of dominant frequency to be used for comparison with the BS and DIN norm curves.
The broad-band noise results can be recorded simultaneously in three acoustic profiles, enabling measurements to be taken with three different filters as well as three different detector time constants (for example fast, slow, impulse).
Acceptable vibration levels vary from site-to-site. Flexibility, therefore, is key, and with the SV258 Pro, the operator can input customised values, or whatever standards or criteria for vibration levels he or she wishes into the device.
In the general cacophony of a mining operation, it is often difficult to isolate which particular sources of noise are breaching standards.
To solve this vexing problem, the revolutionary SV200A, a top-tier noise monitoring station on its own, features built-in noise directivity technology.
The SV200A can isolate and locate any source of noise, both vertically and horizontally, from an area of measurement, exclude other sources of noise, and then map out and report the targeted noise source using Google Maps.
Both the SV258 Pro and the SV200A are linked into SvanPC ++ software. The range of reporting capabilities of this program are remarkable, and perhaps the most impressive for operators is the built-in alarm function.
When a monitoring station records a breach in noise levels, an alarm is triggered, and SMS and emails can be sent directly to workers in the field. And because of the noise directivity feature, operators know exactly which source of noise has breached a set threshold.
Whether it is the precision of noise directivity or real-time analysis of vibration effects on workers, for companies who want precision and intelligence in their operations, Acu-Vib’s Svantek products are the way to go. All units are calibrated in accordance to NATA specifications in the Acu-Vib Electronics-accredited Sydney Laboratory in Acoustics and Vibrations.
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