Assessing Thermal Comfort in Deep Underground Mines
AuthorSunkpal, Maurice N.
AdvisorKocsis, Charles K.
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The importance of workers maintaining relative body comfort in deep hot underground mines is of great significance. This is because productivity, health, safety and the bottom line of mine operations depend on it. Comfort studies have been extensively researched, especially in the built and meteorological fields resulting in an avalanche of recommendations for their evaluation. Nevertheless, no known or accepted mode for comprehensively assessing the thermal condition of the mining environment is currently available. Current literature presents several methods and techniques but none of these can expansively assess the underground mine environment since most methods consider only one or a few defined factors and neglect others. Some are specifically formulated for the built and meteorological climates thus, making them unsuitable for underground mine situations. This thesis presents an approach in the form of a comfort model which will apply comfort parameters in assessing extensively the climate conditions of the deep, hot, and humid underground mines. This method considers both human and climate parameters in the human comfort equation and hence offers a more inclusive assessment. Simulation analysis predicted comfort limits in the form of required sweat rate and maximum skin wettedness. Tolerable worker exposure times to minimize thermal strain due to dehydration are predicted. Optimal ambient air temperatures, humidities and activity rates of miners for comfort are also predicted. The analysis determined the optimal air velocity for thermal comfort to be 1.5 m/s. The results also detected humidity to contribute more to deviations from thermal comfort compared to other comfort parameters. It is expected that this new approach will significantly help in managing heat stress issues in underground mines and thus improve productivity, safety, and health.