In the 1960s cartoon The Flintstones, Stone Age man Fred Flintstone worked in a quarry while sitting in the open booth of a rock-crusher machine. Presumably, the animators based Fred’s booth on the open designs typical of the 1960s. If they had created it in the 2000s, however, Fred’s booth would have looked vastly different, notwithstanding the fact that his booth was atop a brontosaurus.
Modern-day enclosed, climate-controlled booths are a prime example of prevention through design, one of the approaches that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends for developing safe, healthy, and comfortable work environments. Today’s booths have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems with built-in air pressurization and filtration units to remove airborne pollutants such as silica dust from rock and sand and particles from diesel exhaust. Removing these airborne pollutants is critical to protecting workers from developing silicosis, lung cancer, and other job-related lung diseases, which are preventable by reducing job-related exposures to respirable silica dust.
Compared to the old booth, the new filtration system based on NIOSH research provided significantly greater protection against respirable rock dust. (Photo from NIOSH and 3M Company.)
In a recent study, NIOSH investigators worked with industry partners at 3M Company to design and test an environmentally controlled booth for workers who operate rock crushers at the company’s Wausau granite quarry near Wausau, Wisconsin. Previously, the Wausau quarry had used an older crusher booth without HVAC or air filtration and pressurization systems. Based on specifications from previous NIOSH research, 3M designed and installed a new booth with full HVAC and filtration and pressurization systems. Compared to the old booth, the new one provided significantly greater protection against respirable rock dust, the investigators reported in a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Mining Engineering. In addition, they found that increased filtration of the recirculated airflow markedly improved the booth’s effectiveness at protecting the operator from airborne pollutants.
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