Among underground coal miners, hearing loss remains one of the most common occupational illnesses. In response, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts research to reduce the noise emission of various underground coal mining equipment, an example of which is a roof bolting machine (RBM). After the removal of coal or rock, the remaining strata may be subject to fall, either from overhead (the roof) or from the side (the rib). One method used in underground coal-mines to prevent failures requires the installation of roof bolts. The roof bolting machine operator trams the machine to the required location, drills a hole into the strata, and then installs a roof bolt, supporting the roof or the rib, as the case may be. Field studies support the premise that, on average, drilling noise is the loudest noise that a roof bolting machine operator would be exposed to and contributes significantly to the operators’ noise exposure. NIOSH has determined that the drill steel radiates a significant amount of noise during drilling. NIOSH is developing bit and chuck isolators to reduce vibration, and thus noise radiation of the drill steel, with the longer-term goal of reducing roof bolting machine operator noise exposure. Laboratory testing has shown that operator ear sound pressure levels may be reduced by 3 to 7 dB(A), depending upon the test configuration and drilling media.

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