Self-rescuers have long been a health and safety requirement in the underground mining industry. These small devices, carried by miners every day, provide the user with ability to protect themselves from an irrespirable atmosphere. Ensuring breathing apparatus is in good working order is essential to provide peace of mind for miners, employers and their families.
Terese Drane from the Mine Safety Laboratory said that the Technical Reference Guideline “Escape Breathing Apparatus for Underground Mining Applications – Standards for design and ongoing monitoring”, published by the NSW Resources Regulator in October 2020, sets the standard for breathing apparatus testing.
“We are the only testing facility in Australia equipped to examine and test self-rescuer units. This includes testing the units from the original equipment manufacturer, suppliers, as well as testing a sample of units in service at mining operations,” she said.
Ms Drane explained that units deteriorate over time and that batch testing is the only way to confirm that a batch is viable for use.
“This is a life saving device and you have to be able to count on it,” she said.
“Our testing process includes a visual check which replicates the daily checks performed by the miners who wear them. Here we look for dents in the casing, excessive wear, breaks in seals or check if the heat or moisture indicators have gone off. We then perform the lab tests.”
Lab testing examines the units under pressure to really test the effectiveness of the unit.
“For example, checking for miniscule cracks that the eye can’t see but might still let air or other gases in or out. We also open the unit and run it on a breathing simulator. This tells us the oxygen percentage and other critical data like inhaled carbon dioxide, breathing resistance and the temperature of inhaled air.”
Communication with the mining operation is an essential part of the process. Mines are notified of any issues or defects that are identified throughout testing.
“As units get older, the testing becomes more frequent and communication with mines is more important; particularly if sites have a considerable store of older stock.”
Ms Drane said operators can always contact the Mine Safety Laboratory for advice or guidance.
“It [sampling and testing] really is an easy process. We are here to help.”
About Mine Safety Laboratory
Mine Safety Laboratory is part of the Coal Services Specialised Health and Safety Scheme’s group of businesses. Our team are the leading experts in mine site testing services, using unique equipment tailored specifically for mining applications. We are NATA-accredited for multiple testing and analysis services and are the only facility in Australia to be accredited to undertake specialised oxygen index testing and monitoring gas detector performance.