Cobalt Exposure Prevention

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We have a strong Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) culture at Sandvik Mining and our objective is to minimize harm to our people, our customers, our suppliers and the environment to the greatest extent possible.

On November 7 2013 the members of the International Cobalt Development Institute (CDI) and Cobalt REACH Consortium (CoRC) classified Cobalt metal as a category 1B (H350i) carcinogen by inhalation*

The following are some examples of measures taken by Sandvik Mining to attempt to reduce exposure from dust, mist or fumes from the material. Keep in mind, before engaging in any activity involving the use of Cobalt, the user must first review, understand and comply with all applicable instruction manuals, laws and regulations.

Cemented Carbide, Tungsten Carbide and Hardmetal are different names for the same kind of material

All alloys (mixtures) containing >1% Cobalt metal carries the same classification

Only inhalable forms of Cobalt metal is considered hazardous

Cemented Carbide is a powdery metallurgical material; a composite of Tungsten Carbide (WC) particles and a binder rich in metallic Cobalt (Co), along with sometimes other substances such as Nickel, Tantalum Carbide, Molybdenum Carbide, Chromium Carbide, depending on the formulation of the powder mixture

Cemented Carbide is used in, among other things, metal cutting tools, drills, die and punches, in engineering applications and for rock drilling tools.

Cemented Carbide is a popular material due to its strong wear resistance.

The cemented carbide body is formed, either through powder pressing or injection moulding techniques, into a body, which is then sintered to full density.

Cobalt exists in the dust and mist that is produced when grinding, sharpening, cutting, or heating Cemented Carbide products.

Even if the necessary precautionary measures are taken, dust or mist of hazardous ingredients such as Cobalt may be inhaled, or come into contact with the skin or eyes causing potential irritation and disease.

Do you know the label? It is the new Cobalt dust or mist hazard warning label. This label has been produced to be used on products containing Cobalt.

These are some of the examples of steps that Sandvik Mining has taken in order to help attempt to reduce exposure to Cobalt in its factories.

Production unit

Västberga is the centre for development of hardmetals and material and process development.

  • Materials development
  • Surface-coating processes
  • Product development
  • Production technology
  • Västberga also produce Cemented Carbide products such as drill bits, inserts and hot rolls.

PU Västberga has:

An advanced process laboratory and a full pilot plant producing 4 tons/year of test powders.

More than 125 engineers and technicians committed to tool material R&D

A dedicated tool material test center where 20 000 edges are tested each year, resulting in 40 tons of chips

20-30 hard materials patents that are issued annually

material grades with improved performance released each year

The Västberga site has created dedicated risk assessments for the measure of Cemented Carbide powder in order to help attempt to reduce Cobalt exposure. Some of the actions that have been a result of these risk assessments are:

  • Wooden pallets used have been changed to plastic pallets due to ease of cleaning
  • Additional extraction points have been fitted
  • Connection points of plastic hoses that transport Cemented Carbide powder from the drum to the press cells have been reinforced to help reduce leakage
  • It is necessary to report any spillage or potential hazard
  • The work site is to be kept clean at all times and any exposed items on surfaces or walls to be covered with dust sheets for ease of cleaning

In the far north of Sweden you will find the town of Boliden. This is where Swedish minerals company Boliden originates from and where four of their mines are located today, those being rich in gold, silver, copper and lead. It is also the same location where the company’s re-grinding station is situated.

In October of 2013 Sandvik Mining and Boliden started work on a project together to renovate and modernise the re-grinding station at Boliden’s premises, with the goal to make the workshop a safer environment to grind in. The new re-grinding station was completed in January 2014 and is now home to a modern, high-tech set up which includes new ventilation systems and water pipes that both help to control dust levels and lower the risk of exposure to cobalt particles.

Sandvik and Boliden had been proactive in their actions to create a safer environment for their workers to grind in as the classification of Cobalt as a carcinogenic material, risk phrase H350i was confirmed in November 2013 by members of the International Cobalt Development Institute and Cobalt REACH Consortium.

Some further measures that could be taken to potentially help reduce exposure to Cobalt when grinding and re-grinding:

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Use necessary PPE

Wear appropriate work clothes, masks, eye protection, gloves and hearing protection

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Wash hands

Wash hands before using gloves and change gloves if they become dirty. Use conditioning and/or barrier hand cream to keep your skin in good condition, and thereby potentially strengthen the skin barrier.

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Do not

Do not eat, drink or smoke in the presence of atomized Cemented Carbide particles.

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Good hygiene

Good hygiene throughout the working day, such as regularly washing hands may help prevent cross contamination.

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Exhaust ventilation

Ensure exhaust ventilation is working properly. Outlet for process ventilation (exhaust system) should allow for filtration or other cleaning techniques of material particles.

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Cover work areas

Work area should be covered with light non-stick surfaces allowing easy and regular cleaning.

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Wet grinding

Where possible wet grinding is recommended as opposed to dry grinding.

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Use correct equipment

When cleaning the area, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter (do not use a broom/brush).

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Deposit work wear correctly

Used work wear should not be taken home, it should be deposited in the provided used clothing container at work which will be washed by a cleaning company that has the correct washing process to both remove cobalt particles from the clothes and to dispose of them in an environmentally responsible way.

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Sedimentation outlets

Outlet for waste water should allow for sedimentation or other cleaning techniques of metal particles particles.

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Follow regulations

Sediment should be handled according to local governmental regulations and disposed of in a safe and environmentally responsible way.

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Return drilling tools

You may also return used drilling tools to Sandvik for recycling. Contact us to find out more.

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