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Michael Ong CC
Correspondence: Dr C C M Ong
Naval Medicine Hyperbaric Centre (NMHC) was approached by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to provide medical support for the North Eastern Line MRT Project. The medical support provided by NMHC focused on providing training, audits and ensuring that safety and health infrastructure were in place even before the commencement of compressed air tunnelling. The extensive use of the EPBM (Earth Pressure Balance Machine) tunnelling machines for the first time in Singapore necessitated a reassessment of the medical support system and paradigm that was based primarily on the older form of tunnelling. The survey results showed that human exposure to compressed air works with the use of EPBM was minimal and no decompression illness was reported. However, there was still a total of 28 cases of barotrauma that were reported which were mainly from the tunnels dug using the open face compressed air tunnelling method. As such, medical providers should still exercise careful planning for the medical support of compressed air works.
Keywords: Underground tunnelling, Compressed air works, Earth Pressure Balance Machine, Decompression Sickness, Barotrauma
Singapore Med J 2002; 43(9): 463-466