The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration will publish in the Jan. 15 Federal Register a final rule that requires underground coal mine operators to equip continuous mining machines, except full-face continuous mining machines, with proximity detection systems.
Miners working near continuous mining machines face pinning, crushing, and striking hazards that result in accidents involving life-threatening injuries and death. This final rule strengthens protections for miners by reducing the potential for these accidents in underground coal mines.
The final rule is effective 60 days after being published in the Federal Register.
To assess the costs and benefits of the final rule, MSHA conducted a review of fatal and nonfatal pinning, crushing, and striking accidents, which occurred in underground coal mines from 1984 through 2013, to identify those that could have been prevented by using a proximity detection system. Of the 75 preventable fatalities resulting from these accidents, 34 were associated with continuous mining machines.
During this same time period, MSHA estimates that the use of a proximity detection system could have prevented approximately 238 nonfatal injuries associated with continuous miners, excluding full-face continuous miners. From 2010 through 2013, six underground coal miners working in close proximity to continuous mining machines died from pinning, crushing, or striking accidents. These accidents continue to occur. In February 2014, a miner was fatally crushed by a continuous mining machine.
“Proximity detection systems are needed because training and outreach initiatives alone, while helpful, have not prevented these accidents from continuing to occur,” said MSHA. “These accidents are preventable and the proximity detection systems can provide necessary protections for miners.”
MSHA anticipates several benefits from the final rule that were not quantified due to a lack of definitive information. For example, MSHA anticipates that the final rule will result in savings to mine operators by avoiding the production delays typically associated with mine accidents.