COLD, VIBRATION, AIRBORNE EXPOSURES AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC INFLUENCES IN MINING

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Long-term occupational exposure to whole-body vibration is associated with an increased risk of low back pain and pain in the neck-shoulder region in the exposed drivers of for instance bulldozers, trucks and excavators. These health problems are frequent in mine workers, and have high social and economic costs for the individuals, employers and the wider society. The contribution from whole body vibration to these health problems is not fully understood. It appears that the probability and severity of vibration-related symptoms is influenced by several factors, such as the characteristics of vibration exposure, type of machinery and work process, environmental conditions, biodynamic and ergonomic factors, and various individual characteristics. There are so far no publications addressing the combined effects of cold and vibration. Several studies have pointed out that if the exposure includes shock (high acceleration during short time) the risk of low back pain increases.

Pain is characterized by occurring in recurrent episodes and with varying pain intensity. The knowledge about the relationship between the character of the pain, its onset and expected development over time is however limited. Furthermore, the occurrence of pain has also been found to be dependent on the climate with higher prevalence's in cold climate compared with warm climate. Occupational exposures to hazardous levels of hand-transmitted vibration (from powered tools) are common in some part of the mine work (for instance maintenance of vehicles). Prolonged exposure to hand-transmitted vibration is associated with an increased occurrence of symptoms and signs of disorders in the vascular, neurological and musculoskeletal systems of the upper limbs, with consequences for the ability to work. Moreover, increased risks of death from myocardial infarction in relation to exposure to vibration have also been found in some studies on workers in the mining industry. The occurrence of these diseases has been found to be dependent on the climate with higher prevalence's in cold climate compared with warm climate. This climatic aspect is shared by the mining workplaces across the Barents region, as opposed to most other mining regions in the world.

 

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