MSHA Issues Emergency Standard on Mine Evacuation

For the third time in the history of the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to improve protection of miners during and after underground coal mine accidents and evacuations.

"This year's tragic mine accidents in West Virginia require immediate action to put in place addition safety requirements to help miners successfully evacuate a mine when an emergency occurs," said David G. Dye, acting administrator for the mine safety agency.

The standard, which will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register on March 9, contains provisions for self-contained self-rescuer storage and use, evacuation training and the installation and maintenance of lifelines.

The ETS also includes requirements for immediate accident notification that are applicable to all underground and surface mines. According to the rules set by the standard, mine operators must notify MSHA within 15 minutes after determining an accident has occurred, so that coordination of appropriate mine rescue or other emergency response can begin immediately.

The standard will be in effect for 9 months and during that time, MSHA will finalize the final rule, according to an MSHA spokesperson.

Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers Union, said that while he is pleased with the issuing of the standard, there is some room for improvement.

"MSHA still has not addressed the immediate implementation of underground communications improvements or location-tracking devices and it has still not issued rules mandating mine rescue teams at each mine in America, as required by the act," he said. "This should just be the starting point for these proposals and we hope to see improvements in them after the comment period."

Public hearings on the emergency temporary standard are scheduled for April 11 in Charleston, W. Va.; April 24 in Denver; April 26 in Lexington, Ky.; and April 28 in Arlington, Va.

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