OBJECTIVES: To compare the noise and vibration levels associated with three hand-held rock drills (pneumatic, hydraulic and electric) currently used in South African mines, and a prototype acoustically shielded self-propelled rock drill.
METHODS: Equivalent A-weighted sound pressure levels were recorded on a geometrical grid, using Rion NL-11 and NL-14 sound level meters. Vibration measurements were conducted on the pneumatic, hydraulic and electric drills in accordance with the ISO5349-1 (2001) international standard on human exposure to hand-transmitted vibration, using a Brel and Kjær UA0894 hand adaptor. PCB Piezo accelerometers were used to measure vibration in three orthogonal directions. No vibration measurements were conducted on the self-propelled drill.
RESULTS: All four drills emitted noise exceeding 85 dB(A). The pneumatic drill reached levels of up to 114 dB(A), while the shielded self-propelled drill almost complied with the 85 dB(A) 8 h exposure limit. Vibration levels of up to 31 m s–2 were recorded. These levels greatly exceed recommended and legislated levels.
CONCLUSIONS: Significant engineering advances will need to be made in the manufacture of rock drills to impact on noise induced hearing loss and hand arm vibration syndrome. Isolating the operator from the drill, as for the self-propelled drill, addresses the problems of both vibration and noise exposure, and is a possible direction for future development.