Cumbrian quarry trials new live air monitoring equipment

A Burlington Stone worker with the wearable Trolex device

Burlington Stone in Kirkby-in-Furness has recently become the first quarry in the UK to trial new live air monitoring equipment as part of an initiative by the Minerals Product Association (MPA) in conjunction with Trolex Engineering.

The quarry's broad range of minerals, products and applications made it an ideal choice for the trial. These wearable monitors continuously assesses the quantity of fine particles in the air, providing live as-it-happens data to managers in the factory.
While dust and RCS (respirable crystalline silica) monitoring is a legislative requirement, samples are currently sent away for analysis however these monitors can deliver results instantly and identify any spikes throughout the day. However, these monitors are not designed to replace the regulatory requirement of sampling, but to help managers know in real-time the air quality, meaning action can quickly be taken to address any problems.
Pete Walker, HSEQ manager at Burlington, which is part of the Holker group, explained:  “We create everything here, from roofing slates to gravestones, kitchen worktops to aggregate for roads and driveways, so we are cutting and breaking stone in every which way possible, and the stone we quarry has around 40% silica.”

“I can identify the hotspots immediately,” Pete continued. “There is a safety level and the regulatory sample might show that the activity produced a sample that was under that over the eight-hour period. However, under those current tests we wouldn’t know if one particular aspect of that activity is more risky during a different stage of the process or different time of the day.”
“The data was absolutely invaluable to us,” he said. “It certainly opened my eyes: it helped us to see, for example, that in part of the factory we have 10 employees all doing the same activity, using the same tools, at the same time, but because of their different techniques we found a substantial difference in total dust particles from one end of the factory to the other.

“We are able to use these monitors to better and more quickly understand a new machine or new process, so we could monitor that in live time and get a real understanding without having to wait for the laboratory analysis.

“We are the first to kickstart the trial because, although we are not one of the major national quarrying companies, we do every element of quarrying and a wide variety of downstream added-value processes here which is extremely rare. We also got involved because we want to be part of what the industry is leading on.”

As a result of the three-week trial that took place in January, Burlington has already identified some improvements and their findings will now be analysed and shared with the MPA and Trolex and the rest of the industry.