New rule on mine safety released

New rule on mine safety released

The federal mine safety agency yesterday published a final rule requiring mine operators to provide more emergency breathing devices, better evacuation training and a quicker response during accidents.

The federal rules were finalized after the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration held a series of public hearings on a set of temporary, yet stringent, mine safety regulations.

The government adopted the temporary rules after January accidents in West Virginia Killed 12 at the Sago Mine and two at the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine.

A Kentucky panel also released its first set of recommendations on the use of underground safety procedures, including training that more closely simulates conditions that warrant the use of emergency breathing devices.

Prompted by the Sago and Aracoma disasters, the state Mine Equipment Review Panel was established in April by law, which requires that mine safety equipment and new technology be continually evaluated.

In May, a Harlan County explosion caused the deaths of five underground miners, further raising concerns about emergency breathing devices, protective seals and other safety issues.

The state panel recommended setting requirements for reporting defective breathing devices to the state and routine testing for methane and other hazardous gases around underground protective seals. It also suggests that federal and state governments should set aside long-term funding to keep up with developments in mine safety equipment and technology.

“Keeping up with technological developments in mine safety is critical,” said Susan Bush, commissioner of the state Department for Natural Resources, which oversees the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.

MSHA’s final standard encompasses many of the same regulations found in the federal MINER Act, which became law this year.

The final rules spell out how mine operators should make improvements to meet the requirements of the act, which include miners’ carrying at least a two-hour supply of oxygen while they work — up from a one-hour standard — and operators’ leaving additional air packs at various points in mines.

The act also requires that rescue teams be within an hour’s distance of mines, rather than two hours, and that accident notification be within 15 minutes.

The law, backed by both the coal industry and United Mine Workers, also directed MSHA to require that new underground tracking and communications be in place within three years and to revise fines for mine safety civil penalties.

“These new requirements are an integrated approach to providing proper guidance to miners and mine operators during emergency situations,” said MSHA chief Richard Stickler of the final rules.

For example, MSHA set up a single hotline for reporting accidents, in hopes of making compliance with the 15-minute rule more efficient.

MSHA will release additional rules that speak to different parts of the act, including regulations by the end of December revising fines for safety violations, said agency spokeswoman Amy Louviere.

Rules for mine rescue teams are due by the end of next year.

Share this post