Burnout – stress and safety in the workplace

An insightful and helpful article from The Conversation.


Source – https://theconversation.com/tackling-burnout-how-to-deal-with-stress-and-safety-in-the-workplace-161852
“Tackling burnout: How to deal with stress and safety in the workplace
June 14, 2021 7.59pm SAST
When I began working in disaster and emergency management, there was a funny anecdote suggesting the job was 98 per cent paperwork and two per cent adrenalin.
Looking around at my office environment, I failed to see much adrenalin. To make sense of this, I researched some major disasters and discovered that when they strike, emergency managers transition to working in emergency co-ordination centres. These nerve centres often look like something out of the movies, with people staring intently at their computers while large screens everywhere display critical information.
During the devastating Fort McMurray wildfires in 2016, which destroyed entire subdivisions and caused more than $1 billion in damage, I finally understood the “two per cent adrenalin” aspect of our work. For months, the work was non-stop and around the clock. Soon, I noticed the initial state of exhilaration was replaced by a state of exhaustion.
At that time, I was reminded of the 2004 book, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, written by Canadian physician Gabor Maté, that outlines the four most stressful stimuli: Lack of information, uncertainty, lack of control and conflict. I observed that during a disaster, all of these factors are present in droves.
In a disaster, critical decisions must be made with incomplete or contradictory information. Lack of control and uncertainty emerge when navigating policies, guidelines and laws. There’s often conflict with resource allocation and conflicting priorities.
Other notable factors include atypical working hours, extremes of activity and a sedentary work environment. While some features are unique to our profession, I’m under no illusion that we’re alone in our experiences. Many other professions and positions face similar challenges.
Exhaustion follows exhilaration
While short-term workplace stress is to be expected, the problem emerges with long-term sustained stress.
As Hungarian scientist Hans Selye described in 1950 in his seminal general adaptation syndrome about workplace stress, after sustaining a period of exhilaration, stressed employees eventually reach the exhaustion phase and can no longer sustain additional pressure. Today in my clinical psychology practice, my clients who work in various fields tell me about exhaustion, irritability, impatience, trouble concentrating and taking in new information and feeling under-appreciated at work, with some even contemplating quitting their jobs.
In 2019, the World Health Organization identified a syndrome it labelled “burnout” resulting from chronic workplace stress. Now people who report feeling depleted of energy or exhausted, mentally distanced from or cynical about their jobs and experiencing problems getting their work done can be diagnosed with a workplace injury.
Burnout as the result of workplace stress carries significant implications for employers. Canadian occupational health and safety standards require employers to protect the physical and mental health of their workers. If people are meeting the criteria for burnout, organizations may be neglecting their legislated duty to ensure psychologically safe workplaces.
Preventing, mitigating stress
The good news is something can be done. While it will require genuine organizational commitment, prevention and mitigation are key. But to get at the heart of the problem, we must first ask if employers are even tracking psychological safety in the workplace.
Of those that do, most merely encourage staff to exercise more, meditate, sleep better and eat a more balanced diet. This is, quite simply, passing the buck onto an already depleted workforce and does nothing to address the core of the problem. The answer is not to recommend Band-Aid solutions, suggesting employees try even harder in their downtime to compensate for organizational neglect.
For meaningful change, organizations must first implement clear policies reflecting their commitment to workplace mental health and psychological safety, and appoint a wellness champion and leaders who model these values.
The next step is identifying workplace hazards through employee engagement surveys, workplace risk assessments, incident investigations, exit interviews and disability claim data if available. Identifying controls to prevent psychological harm is also necessary.
Respectful workplace policies
Once hazards have been identified, prevention and mitigation measures must follow. Organizations must define and train employees on their duties and responsibilities, monitor workload, consider flexible work arrangements, clearly communicate priorities and ensure respectful workplace policies are understood and that managers who defy them are held accountable.
Organizations must address environmental risks by encouraging movement, breaks and getting sunlight. Finally, documenting and reporting hazards as a measure for ongoing program development is necessary because it helps inform company policy as part of holistic continuous improvement efforts.
Throughout the entire cycle, I remind organizational leaders to remain present to support staff through the execution of all tasks — and of the value in fostering happy and engaged teams.
Research shows that the highest performing workplace teams have one thing in common: psychological safety. When people feel safe, they are engaged and committed to their work, and this builds organizational resilience. Employers who manage to get ahead of the burnout curve will gain a distinct advantage over other organizations.”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Latest Dust Storm News

Two huge dust storms – one in the US and one in Uzbekistan
Source – https://watchers.news/2021/12/16/dust-storm-colorado-nebraska-kansas-december-2021/
Massive dust storm sweeps through Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, U.S.
Posted by TW on December 16, 2021
Strong winds caused by a powerful storm moving through the Plains, produced a massive dust storm in eastern Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska on December 15, 2021.
Strong wind gusts in excess of 160 km/h (100 mph) closed roads and knocked out power to more than 200 000 customers in Kansas and Colorado.
Many areas reported blinding dust storm, with zero or near-zero visibility.”
Video – https://thumbs.gfycat.com/GoodnaturedFatGuineafowl-mobile.mp4
“The worst dust storm in Uzbekistan’s recorded history
Posted by Teo Blašković on November 9, 2021
A severe dust storm that started in southern Kazakhstan hit parts of Uzbekistan on the evening of November 4, 2021, growing under favorable weather conditions into the worst since the country started keeping meteorological records in 1871. The worst affected were Tashkent and the southern Syrdarya Region, and Kazakhstan’s Turkestan Region.
According to the country’s meteorological service – Uzhydromet, under the influence of gusts of wind, the parched upper layer of soil rose up, creating the effect of a dust and sand haze, with visibility just 100 – 200 m (328 – 656 feet) in a number of districts in the country.1
Volumes of sand and dust that are raised into the air usually disperse and settle on the ground soon after the wind drops but in this case, a mass of cold air prevented this from happening.
Instead, an inversion layer formed, in which temperatures stop falling with elevation but rise instead.
This created a dust haze, a phenomenon unusual for the region.”
Video – https://youtu.be/69fDlXm3dOk
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Contentious Coal Mine

From Mongabay.com, news of a contentious coal mine………
Contentious Coal Mine
Legal challenge to South Africa mine expansion looks to set new landmark
by Victoria Schneider on 12 November 2021
Source – https://news.mongabay.com/2021/11/legal-challenge-to-south-africa-mine-expansion-looks-to-set-new-landmark/
“In 2016, South Africa’s minister of minerals and energy granted one of the country’s largest anthracite coal mines the right to expand and resettle 143 families.
The decision was challenged by a local organization that filed an application against the minister, the Department of Minerals and Energy, the mining company, and others.
If the case is won, it would be a landmark for communities affected by mining activities across the country, as the government, traditional authorities and unions have shown support for the mine.
Five years ago, one of South Africa’s largest coal mines was given permission to grow even larger. In 2016, the Tendele mine was granted mining rights to an additional 212 square kilometers (82 square miles) of the northeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. Residents challenged the decision in court in 2018, and the case is finally being heard this week. And when it comes, the decision could be a landmark for communities affected by mining across the country.
At the core of the dispute is a 2016 decision by the minister of minerals and energy to grant Tendele, a subsidiary of South African mining company Petmin, the right to extend its open-pit coal mine at Somkhele, near Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Nature Reserve. The ministry approved extending mining rights over an additional 212 km2, which would have required relocating 143 families.
Tendele has been operating the mine since 2007. It has prompted complaints by local communities about dust pollution affecting people’s health, houses cracking due to blasting, polluted groundwater, and loss of livestock.
The court challenge was initially filed in 2018 by the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organization (MCEJO), a local group formed in opposition to mining in the area. MCEJO has since been joined by four co-applicants representing mining-affected communities and environmental defenders in South Africa. They argue that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for extending the mine was flawed and consultation with the community was inadequate.
“There was no meaningful stakeholder input” and “no prior, free and informed consent obtained from the occupiers of the land,” court papers read.
The case is regarded as a potential landmark for communities affected by mining in South Africa. “This case is vital,” said attorney Kirsten Youens, whose nonprofit law clinic All Rise is representing MCEJO. “What happens in Somkhele is so reminiscent of apartheid days when people were told that they had no rights and had to go with it. This case will show that communities can stand up to big powerful governments and industries.”
Local communities complain about dust pollution affecting people’s health, houses cracking due to blasting, polluted groundwater, and loss of livestock caused by Tendele’s mining.
Long, violent struggle
The hearing has been delayed five times, most recently due to the sheer volume of paperwork submitted by the parties. The case finally opened on Nov. 10 and is scheduled to run for three days, with judgment expected in February 2022 at the earliest.
For Tendele, the matter has become increasingly urgent as the miner says the coal reserves in the current areas will soon be depleted. “Should the mine be unable to very soon open up an extended area, it will be forced to close,” CEO Jan du Preez told Mongabay. According to du Preez, if the mine closes down, 1,200 employees and 70 locally based entrepreneurs would lose their primary source of income. This could be as soon as June 2022.
The company is seeking to have the case referred back to the minister of minerals and energy, which would allow it to continue preparations to expand. But MCEJO attorney Youens insists the extended mining right be withdrawn and the company start again from the beginning.
The dispute around Somkhele has been accompanied by tensions and violence targeting opponents of the mine. It peaked with the murder of Fikile Ntshangase, one of the leading voices against the expansion, in October 2020.
MCEJO itself was divided in the course of the legal battle. The organization, now counting more than 3,000 members, originated in the nearby Fuleni community where residents opposed a planned coal mine in 2015, and soon expanded to Somkhele. The executive committee is based in Fuleni.
Weeks before Ntshangase’s murder, seven of nine members of its Somkhele subcommittee — all but Ntshangase and the chairperson — had signed an agreement with the mine to withdraw from the court case.
The seven have since been expelled from the organization, but in March this year, Tendele signed a “peace accord ” with this splinter group of MCEJO and other local groups in favor of the mine.
An attempt by Tendele to use the internal conflict to challenge Youens’s mandate as the legal representative of MCEJO was dismissed by the court in April.
Company’s shrinking claim
Even before the case is heard, the resistance has affected the narrative. Following accusations that the mine is dividing the community, Tendele eventually admitted that the process of obtaining the new mining right was flawed.
In March 2021, the miner acknowledged a “lack of evidence” proving that the Department of Environmental Affairs had been consulted by the minister of minerals and energy before his decision to grant the mining right, as required by the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).
Tendele also accepted that the EIA process did not comply with the MPRDA. It concluded that “neither the Regional Manager nor the Minister could have reasonably satisfied themselves that the proposed mining will not result in unacceptable pollution, ecological degradation or damage to the environment.”
The company further admitted “imperfections” in the public participation process, specifying that “Tendele did not obtain consent from MCEJO’s members and other lawful occupiers of the proposed mining sites as required under the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act 31 of 1996.”
Tendele has since reduced the prospective mining area by 92%, now seeking only 17 km2 (6.6 mi2), and is claiming to “retain only those areas which it requires in order to keep the mine operating in the short to medium term.”
The revised extension has left some households uncertain if the mine’s claims still include their homes. “They keep changing the area that is going to be affected,” said Skhombuse Buthelezi, a member of MCEJO who lives in the Ophondweni community that falls into the mining area under dispute.
He said his family was offered compensation of 500,000 rand (nearly $33,000) to relocate, but “no one from the mine has ever engaged with us.” All communication has been done through documents.
Possible settlement emerging
While most affected families have signed agreements with the mine, 10 families have instead entered a mediation process to negotiate a compensation scheme outside the courts.
Richard Spoor Attorneys is representing these households in the mediation. Lawyer Johan Lorenzen said they seek “sustainable compensation based on international best practice grounded in livelihood restoration” rather than Tendele’s offer to pay each based on how much their houses are worth.
Du Preez said that mediation is progressing well. He said he’s also confident that his company has the government’s support: “We must be the only mining company in South Africa that has the Minister and the Premier and the Municipality and Traditional Council and NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] and AMCU [Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union] publicly supporting the mine.”
For its opponents, the case illustrates the struggle faced by communities in mining areas in South Africa and beyond.
“It pits the greed of corporate entities against the environmental and social concerns of the people and is indicative of struggles faced by mining-affected communities across the country,” said Christopher Rutledge, executive director of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), an organization representing mining communities in South Africa that joined MCEJO as an applicant earlier this year.
“So many mines operate above the law,” Youens said. “They know they play such a big role in the economy, they just run over people who don’t know their rights.”
Rutledge was also critical of the role played by the Department of Minerals and Energy. “The DMRE continues to collude with business interests to the detriment of local communities and the environment.”
The DMRE did not respond to questions about this case in time for publication.
Tensions around the mine persist today. Activists and residents opposed to the mine report continuing intimidation and threats, exacerbated by pressure on the remaining holdouts to accept compensation payments and sign relocation agreements.”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Noise Exposure and Hearing Loss

Protecting your ears in a noisy work environment is vital!
Noise Exposure and Hearing Loss
Source – https://ohsonline.com/articles/2021/10/11/noise-hazard.aspx?admgarea=news
“Study Finds More than One-Half of Workers Exposed to Noise do not Use Hearing Protection While on the Job
Non-use was highest among women, young workers and current smokers.
By Shereen HashemOct 11, 2021
A new NIOSH study estimates that more than one-half of noise-exposed workers did not use hearing protection “always” or “usually” when exposed to hazardous occupational noise. A Hearing protection device (HPD) non-use was only measured in workers who reported exposure to noise on the job. The study was published online October 1, 2021 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Around 22 million people in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous noise at work each year. Researchers found female workers, young workers (aged 18-25) and current smokers had a significantly higher prevalence of HPD non-use.
“Our findings regarding HPD non-use by gender and age group are consistent with previous studies,” said Elizabeth Masterson, PhD, research epidemiologist and study co-author. “However, no prior relationship between smoking and HPD non-use has been reported. Our study was the first to find a significant association between current smoking and HPD non-use.”
The study looked at 39,508 adult current workers from 2007 and 2014 National Interview Surveys. These surveys asked participants about their HPD use and occupational noise exposure within the past year. Out of the workers surveyed, 2,057 reported exposure to occupational noise during the previous 12 months in 2007 and 3,380 in 2014. Overall, between 2007 and 2014, the prevalence of HPD non-use did not change significantly.
Among all workers exposed to noise in 2014, researchers found the majority (53 percent) did not wear hearing protection consistently. Industries with the highest HPD non-use among noise-exposed workers included Accommodation and Food Services (90 percent), Health Care and Social Assistance (83 percent) and Education Services (82 percent). Additionally, some of the industries where noise is a well-recognized hazard, were found to have high prevalence of HPD non-use, including Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting (74 percent) and Construction (52 percent).
“The prevalence of HPD non-use remains high. Increasing worker awareness and providing training about the importance of proper and consistent use of HPDs can protect workers from the effects of hazardous noise” said Dr. Masterson. “In addition, we need to overcome barriers to HPD use by ensuring that workers have HPDs that are comfortable and do not overprotect from noise so they can hear speech and other important workplace signals.”
For more information about noise and hearing loss prevention research visit the NIOSH website. Visit the Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance webpage for industry sector-specific statistics on hearing loss, noise exposure and more information.
About the Author
Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Plant more forests

An interesting article on the importance of trees to our environment – and in the fight against fallout dust.
Plant more forests
Source – https://www.technology.org/2021/08/09/want-to-stop-the-droughts-plant-more-forests/
“Want to stop the droughts? Plant more forests
Posted August 9, 2021
Forests are extremely important for the environment. They are dense habitats for animals and plants, they clean groundwater, and provide us with oxygen. Now scientists from ETH Zurich have shown for the first time that forests lead to a rise in precipitation. In other words, forests help fight droughts.
Due to climate change, we are bound to experience more and more devastating droughts. And that is extremely bad news because our farms depend on rain and wildlife is struggling in droughts as well. Scientists knew for a long time that forests affect regional climates. They help regulate local temperatures and relative humidity. However, up until now scientists didn’t know how exactly forests affect precipitation locally and regionally.
Swiss scientists now analysed precipitation data from over 5,800 measuring stations belonging to different measuring networks in five European regions – Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland. And they made some interesting findings – precipitation in forested lands is considerably higher than in agricultural fields. Surprisingly, scientists found that this effect was more pronounced in winter. But how do forests make it rain?
Scientists hypothesize that increase in precipitation is due to the roughness of the surface of the forest. Forests hold up air masses longer and induce more turbulence, which favours precipitation. They are also warmer in winter than their surroundings and different local temperatures increase precipitation as well. This does mean that planting new forests could help us combat droughts, but what kind of effects could we expect?
Researchers estimate that reforestation of 14.4 % of the total area included in the study would increase average precipitation by as much as 7.6 %, which is a significant amount of rain. On the other hand, this area corresponds to an area slightly larger than France. Allocating so much land to a new forest would not be easy, but it would also help us reduce CO2 concentrations. However, scientists are not too optimistic.
Ronny Meier, first author of the study, said: “A forest does not grow overnight; it takes 20-?30 years. The increased evaporation caused by adding forests in one location might draw water away from streams and rivers needed for agricultural irrigation elsewhere.” This means that reforestations efforts should be well-planned and strategic. However, the efforts would be worth it, because it is very likely that forests would help us avoid extreme weather events as well.
Earth needs forests, but humans prefer agricultural fields. The problem is that without the forests our fields are not going to flourish, bees will die and weather will become more and more extreme. We need to be smart about it and plant more forests.
Source: ETH Zurich”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Sources of Dust



The sources of dust here are predominantly from roads and open areas on the site. The dust is generated from the movements of trucks, forklifts, earthmoving machinery and light vehicles.  Typically, the methodologies for limiting fallout dust levels include watering, using dust binding agents, enforcing speed limits and engineering controls.  Training of workers are also able to effectively control dust levels, but this must include the training of all subcontractors that are doing the work on the site.


These are temporary and typically contain a fines component which can become airborne in the presence of wind.  Typically, the methodologies for attenuation include watering, using dust binding agents and covering the stock piles with hessian.


This is dust generated during the construction of residential homes, apartments and other concrete structures.  Typically, the methodologies for mitigation include training of contractors to limit dust during the various small construction activities.  Wetting down of exposed dust sources and covering of exposed dust sources.  Grinding and cutting generates excessive dust levels and localised engineering controls should be implemented to prevent this dust from being liberated into the environment.

Putting sand down on concrete or brick road surfaces for protection and sealing purposes should be limited and dust must be prevented from these road surfaces.

The use of shade cloth barriers to break up the wind speed and to allow dust to settle should be implemented downwind as per the prevailing wind during the months of 1 September to 30 April.  These months have a prevailing wind direction from the south east.  The shade cloth should be 2.2meters high and supported by sturdy wooden poles.  The cloth should be a low-density shade cloth that allows the wind to pass through the cloth, rather than to block the flow of the wind.   The method of attaching the cloth to the fence should limit the movement of the cloth so that the cloth lasts longer and should not have any sharp edges that can damage the cloth.  Repairs to shade cloth should be included in the planned maintenance.


The above was taken from a generic report brought out by DustWatch CC

Sources of dust

Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year!  May it be a blessed and prosperous year for you all.

Mining Related Deaths

This is always an issue that we want to see improved.  The work environment should be kept as safe as possible!
Mining Related Deaths
Source – https://www.news24.com/fin24/companies/sa-was-aiming-to-end-mine-fatalities-instead-more-miners-are-dying-20210709
“SA was aiming to end mine fatalities – instead, more miners are dying accreditation
Sibongile Khumalo
SA’s mining industry and unions are concerned about an increase in mining-related deaths.
The year 2019 was the safest year on record with 51 deaths.
SA’s deep gold mines, followed by platinum, lead the sector in terms of high fatalities.
Although South Africa’s mining industry has been aiming to reduce mine fatalities to zero, the latest figures instead show an increase.
On Thursday, the Minerals Council of South Africa (MCSA) said a total of 32 mineworkers had died to date this year in the country’s mines – an increase from the rate seen a year ago.
In 2020, as the industry navigated the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic – which hobbled full capacity operations in the initial months of the hard lockdown – some 24 mineworkers were killed in accidents.
While this was progress for South Africa, the International Council on Mining and Metals found, in its 2020 report, that SA had accounted for half its members’ fatalities.
The number of SA mining fatalities in 2018 had stood at 81.
South Africa, which has some of the world’s deepest mines, once had the worst health and safety record in the world. But since 1993, it has gradually been working to turn this around. The year 2019 as the safest on record with 51 deaths.
The country’s deep gold mines account for this year’s highest number of deaths in the period to 5 July, followed by platinum operations.
The MCSA, as well as other stakeholders such as labour unions and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, on Thursday expressed concern at the rise in mine fatalities at a time when the industry was also dealing with a pandemic that had so far killed 480 mineworkers.
What’s causing the deaths?
This year, there has been an increase in “fall of ground” accidents, particularly in the gold sector, with general accidents in mines also being on the upward trend.
The president of the MCSA, Nolitha Fakude, said while Covid-19 – which has devastated the industry for nearly 18 months – was still a challenge, it was crucial not to overlook a deterioration in mining’s safety performance.
“Worse still, thus far in 2021, we are seeing a further deterioration in the fatality trend,” said Fakude, as the council launched the National Day of Health and Safety in Mining.
Themba Mkhwanazi, who is the chairperson the Minerals Council’s Zero Harm Forum, said the situation called for collaborative efforts by the industry in order to arrest the trend.
“The CEOs must drive health and safety improvements from the top by sharing successes and challenges in dealing with occupational incidents,” said Mkhwanazi, who is also the chief executive of Kumba Iron Ore.
In addition to their depth, South Africa also has some of the oldest mines in the world. The sector has over the past year seen a mixed bag of reports in terms of mine-related deaths – as well as other health concerns.
The Chief Inspector of Mines, David Msiza, said while there had been a reduction in occupational diseases, the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss and occupational lung disease was still a concern.
Illegal miners’ battle to survive
While the industry is grappling with safety incidents in regular mining activities, government is also facing the scourge of illegal mining, which often results in deaths, as groups known as “zama-zamas” battle for territory or die in disused shafts.
In June, 20 bodies of people believed to be illegal miners surfaced on a site of a disused mine on Orkney, in the Free State.
Illegal mining deaths are not accounted for in the official incidents.
In addition to safety concerns over unregulated mining activities, Msiza said some illegal gangs were becoming violent.
He said illegal miners who were initially concentrated in the Free State were increasingly becoming active in Mpumalanga and the East Rand.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has been driving the sealing of disused shafts in various parts of the country, but the reopening of holes by syndicates has seen officials playing cat and mouse with zama-zamas.
“If we don’t deal with the market, then we will struggle. Our other approach is to promote illegal mining through the issuing of licences to groups that want to operate with the legitimate legal framework, ” he said.
This article has been updated to reflect that the ICMM said 50% of fatalities were among its members. It does not include non-members in its analysis.”
Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Merry Christmas 2021

We wish all our customers and clients a blessed Christmas season for 2021.

Microscan Assessments of Find Particulate Matter Samples



Microscan Assessments of Find Particulate Matter Samples

Image 1: The microscope currently being used.  UB100i Biological Binocular – 4 eye magnifications. UOP. SKU: SW-70051-BS-UB100i.  See specifications in Appendix A.

  • Introduction
    MicroScans are merely a description of accepted geological and other procedures for the recognition of rock fine material and other airborne material, distributed through-out a captured sample.
    While there are many more accurate quantitative analytical procedures, almost all are extremely expensive and all have limitations as they are designed for one purpose without considering other tests that may need to be done on the sample.
    It is important to interpret the results from such quantitative tests with the assistance of the background knowledge of how the sample was taken and site specific information.
    Often laboratory reports are only of academic value and do not bring new information to the table to assist in interpreting the results. The basics of any analysis is that it must provide additional information that is useful for the interpretation of the data being discussed.
    Spectrographic analysis is fine for the various mineral elements or individually for various compounds and element combinations, but all of the organic matter has to be either ashed or acid digested, and thus unless you have done a huge bulk sample capture, you will use up all of the sample to arrive at the elemental content.
    You will then need more material to be able to look at the organic chemistry type contents and yet a third sample to be able to look at the biological content and so on.
    Again, while not the perfect solution, the MicroScan is an intelligent scrutiny of samples that does not destroy or contaminate the sample.
  • Accuracy and Application

Things of concern in establishing the accuracy of any analytical method, as with field and laboratory geology, the initial recognition of a sample will rely on the colour of the sample, the hardness, form of the material in its normal state, and its propensity to break along fracture planes.  The fact that there is a list of geological materials falling into various hardness categories, which are used to establish how hard the material is, with harder material always damaging material of a softer hardness.
Other features of geology of use are the lustre presented on broken surfaces, and the crystalline structure of most minerals.
No matter how small the particulate may be, this will, in most cases, still display its crystalline form.  The hardness of each will then predict how fine dust material will wear, especially when driven over on roadways, quarries, and on dumps.  As dirt can be exceedingly small, this is the scale we need to work at and thus it is imperative that samples can be viewed at anything from scores, hundreds or even thousands of magnifications.  The advent of the digital imaging and various light sources, permits us not only to make observations but to photograph the noted features and specimens present.
The existence of a microscopic world out there also offers an opportunity to find microscopic life forms, or sub-micronic material and the larger more common pollen spores, algae, bacteria, and moulds which can influence health.  These potential health impacts are a concern and do impact on the health of people exposed to them.
Silicosis is caused by fine silica dust, and anthracosis is caused by fine coal dust.  Other forms of respirable disease are caused by other fine dusts, and the MicroScans enable the identification of fibres as well as fine organic material that can have a health impact.
It is a great big “tiny world” out there and there is no reason to only consider the mass of fine particulate matter, PM2.5 or PM10 or even PM30, but why not look for fibres which are present in airborne dusts, spores, moulds and other material which all have largely been ignored with regarding to their impacts on health.
The fact that collection methods only consider a material that remains after ashing or digestion also misses the golden opportunity of seeing what inaccuracies occur in many of the well-established and accepted methodologies.
The MicroScan technician in this case has to have a skill set and the skill base we work from is the knowledge of geology, occupational hygiene, organic chemistry and finally biology.  There are also some elements of forensics.

  • Sample Preparation

Ideally samples should be in a standard, 47mm petri slides with a tight fitted lid.  This allows the sample to be easily sealed when not being MicroScanned.
FFP1 or FFP2 respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of fine respirable particulates.
Gloves should not be worn, as the combination of fabrics could cause static and the possible loss of fine material.
Forceps must be used to handle any samples.

  • Observations, Digitised Images and Preparation of Report photographs

The samples are scanned, and a representative image selected.  All size fractions are determined using a graticule.  The graticule size starts at 10 Micron and allows for the d50 diameter of a samples to be estimated.
The image is selected for photography if required.  Should there be any features or unusual material in the sample or a biological specimen, then this can be photographed, either in addition to or instead of the predominant particulate on the filter paper.
The photograph can be taken at four magnifications depending on the requirements.


The Microscope has four magnification (mag) settings, 4x, 10x, 40x, and 100x as a field lens.  The eye piece increases the magnification by 10x, and the camera increases it by 100 times.  The camera is fitted to the top of the microscope and the eye piece magnification is not included.

The total length of the gratical in the image below is 1mm from end to end.  Each small line indicates a gap of 10 micron, each medium line is a gap of 50 micron and each long line is a gap of 100 micron.

Image 2:  The above image photographed at a magnification of 4x field lens and 100x optical camera image, totalling 400 magnifications.

Image 3  The above image photographed at a magnification of 10x field lens and 100x optical camera image, totalling 1000 magnifications.

Image 4:  The above image photographed at a mag of 40x field lens and 100x optical camera image, totalling 4000 magnifications.

Image 5:  The above image photographed at a mag of 100x field lens and 100x optical camera image, totalling 10000 mags.
In practise this magnification cannot be achieved as the LED light source is not good enough to illuminate through the clear glass graticule, as can be noted by the image.

Note that the scaling is only applicable if the original image from the microscope is viewed at 100% size, and if the image has not been digitally resized.  The images above have been digitally resized.

There are some unknowns when doing MicroScans as described above and this should be considered when interpreting the results.

MicroScan assessments are a collection of recognised Geological and structural techniques utilised at microscopic level to determine the gross contents and salient features of any sample.  Crystallography also plays a significant part in the structural determination of materials making up the various constituents of the sample.

As the digitised images will also play a part in the recognition of certain constituents these can be further manipulated permitting viewing using polarised light and other means of illumination.

Our initial problem with some samples (unless taken by DustWatch in the field) is a common one shared by most laboratories running any form of assessment or analysis and that is that samples are supplied “blind” without any background information.  This means that we need to start making assumptions about unknown sampling procedures, exposure or capture times, methods or even any unusual circumstances surrounding the sampling conditions.

It is important to not put two samples together in one container as there will be cross contamination during transport and handling.


Gerry F. Kuhn (FMVS, MSAIOH, Grad SE) Chris Loans

(BSc Chemical Engineer, Pr Eng, MSc Public Health)

Doc Number:  0421291124  Date:  29-Apr-21

Appendix A:

___________________Extract from http://www.lakeland-microscopes.co.uk/ub100i.html
(Accessed August 2018)_____

Binocular Microscopes > UB-100i

UB-100i Advanced Binocular Laboratory Microscope 
Full sized laboratory standard instrument of modern ergonomic design, robust reliable construction and excellent optical performance.
Equipped with infinity-corrected achromatic optical system. Chromatic aberrations and field curvature of field are both ideally corrected over the field of view. Infinity objectives, with higher numerical apertures, produce crisp and clear images..
Ideal for use in colleges, universities and professional laboratories over a wide range of biological, medical, veterinary, bacteriological and agricultural applications. Highly recommended.

Technical Specification: 
* Magnification range x40, x100, x400 & x1000
* Paired x10 DIN standard high eyepoint, widefield Plan eyepieces. Field 18mm, eyepoint 21mm
* Infinity achromatic objectives DIN standard Parfocal, parcentred x4(0.13),x10(0.30),40R(0.70),x100R(1.25) oil immersion (R=retractable)
* Bright field ABBE condenser (N.A. 1.25) with colour-coded iris diaphragm scale and filter carrier on fully focusing Substage
* Build in 230v, 6v 20w halogen illumination with continuously variable rotary brightness control
* Co-axial coarse and fine focusing with indexed scale and adjustable focus tension
* Smooth action x-y mechanical stage 142x135mm with co-axial drop controls and an adjustable spring arm to accommodate slides of different sizes
* Smooth action x-y mechanical stage 142x135mm with co-axial drop controls and an adjustable spring arm to accommodate slides of different sizes
* Seidentopf binocular head, inclined 30 degrees Rotatable 360 degrees with full inter-pupillary adjustment (52-75mm). Magnification factor x1
* Reversed position quadruple objective turret on sealed ball bearing race
* Complete with dust cover
* Supplied in polystyrene pack
* Dimensions 270x190x340mm
* Weight 6.5kg


______End of Extract from http://www.lakeland-microscopes.co.uk/ub100i.html (Accessed August 2018) _

Appendix B

Additional reading material (Links accessible in August 2018 but may have changed since then)

Appendix C

Particle Size Theory

The South African national definition of PM10 particulate size is given as particulate matter of a size less than 10 micron.

The definition of any particle size has to include the density and the shape of the particle.  To understand PM10 particulate (or any particle size definition) additional definitions need to be understood and taken into account.

  1. PM10 – Sampling of atmospheric dust where the aerodynamic d50 diameter is 10μm.
  2. Aerodynamic diameter is the diameter of a spherical particle that has a density of 1g/cm3 and which has the same terminal settling velocity as the particle of interest.
  3. d50 – In a sample of dust the d50 diameter is the diameter above which fifty percent of the particles are larger, and below which fifty percent of the particles are smaller.
  4. d90 – In a sample of dust the d90 diameter is the diameter below which 90% of the particles are smaller.
  5. Terminal settling velocity is the fastest velocity that a particle can fall by gravity taking into account the shape and drag of the particle.

WRAC – Wide Range Aerosol Classification

TSP – Total Suspended Particulate

“The percentage of total aerosol mass less than 10 micron varied from about 50 to 90%, depending on the sampling location and sampling conditions.”  (R. M. Burton & Dale A. Lundgren (1987) Wide Range Aerosol Classifier: A Size Selective Sampler for Large

Particles, Aerosol Science and Technology, 6:3, 289-301, DOI: 10.1080/02786828708959140

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02786828708959140)

“PM10: The mass concentration of particles smaller than 10 μm. In practice, PM10 samplers do not provide perfectly sharp cuts at 10 μm. Instead, size-dependent collection efficiencies typically decrease from 100 percent at ~ 1.5 μm to 0 percent at ~15 μm, and are equal to 50 percent at 10 μm.” Referenced from http://www.aerosols.eas.gatech.edu/EAS%20Graduate%20Lab/Class%20Notes%20Aerosols%20and%20Size%20Distrn.pdf

From the above it is important to note that larger particles can be collected if they have a low density as is the case with organics.