A Study of Occupational Noise Exposure among Gold Miners at Anglo Gold Ashanti Limited (Obuasi)

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Underground and surface gold miners working at AngloGold Ashanti Limited (Obuasi) are potentially exposed to high noise levels from the mining activities, especially noise emitted by the heavy mining equipments. However, occupational exposures to hazards in mine environments have not been adequately characterized and identified. In a bid to assess the noise miners working at AngloGold Ashanti Limited (Obuasi) are exposed to, a study of the occupational noise exposure among gold miners was investigated using a Mini-Sound Level Meter, Noise Dosimeter and through a questionnaire survey. A total of 275 miners were sampled from 4 underground operating shafts and 7 above ground workshops from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm, twice weekly, for 5 months to estimate the occupational noise exposure levels and health impacts. Noise Dosimeter microphone was located at the hearing zone of the gold miner during the full-work period of 8 hours and measurements recorded at the end of each work shift. Results obtained indicates that there is a statistically significantly difference between the mean occupational noise exposure within the sites of mining activities for Continuous Equivalent Level, LAeq.8hrs (92.5 ± 9.00dB (A)) and that of the recommended standard of 85dB (A). The research findings indicated that the primary risk of exposure to noise by gold miners comes from work activities such as drilling, blasting, machine operating, processing, ventilation and transportation. The mean sound pressure levels of exposure of underground miners was 10.9% above the recommended standard of 85dB (A) whiles exposure of surface miners was 2.7% above the recommended standard of 85dB (A). All occupational types were found to be susceptible to noise levels which were potentially harmful. Drillers, Machine Operators, Blast men, Carpenters and STP workers were especially susceptible since their minimum noise level exceeds the recommended standard of 85dB (A). The incidence of tinnitus was found in 56.8% of the miners sampled whilst annoyance, high blood pressure and headaches were found to be 23%. The results of this study will provide useful information for audiologists to better deal with diagnostic testing and aural rehabilitation of the miners. The study highlights that miners are exposed to hazardous noise levels and therefore the need for greater awareness of the effects of noise on the hearing acuity of miners and the need for strict enforcement in the use of hearing protective devices.
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the Degree of Master of Science in Environmental Science