As the weather cools down, the safety risks in coal mining can heat up. To raise awareness of winter coal mining safety risks, and to help protect miners when the temperatures dip down, MSHA has launched its annual Winter Alerts campaign.
Statistics show that coal mine explosions occur most often during the colder months, October through March. Low humidity and low barometric pressures, combined with seasonal drying of many areas in underground coal mines, have been major factors in past mine explosions. Colder weather also brings other potential hazards, such as limited visibility, icy haulage roads and walkways, and the freezing and thawing of highwalls at surface mines, which can make them unstable.
MSHA’s Winter Alert campaign outlines the actions that can prevent serious accidents in coal mines in the colder months: ensuring that snow and ice in travel ways are removed, salt and sand are applied where needed and highwalls frequently are examined for stability. In underground coal mines, mine operators should make certain that there is adequate ventilation, should apply liberal amounts of rock dust, should conduct frequent and thorough examinations and should be familiar with emergency procedures that prevent ignitions and explosions.
It’s all part of MSHA’s goal to encourage employers and workers to understand that “Prevention is the Key to a Safe Workplace.”
"We know this season will bring weather that causes changes in the mining environment and can present certain dangers for working miners," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We also know that there are precautions mine operators can take to alleviate these hazards and prevent accidents."
During regular inspections, MSHA will distribute posters, hardhat stickers and pocket cards with the "Prevention is the Key to a Safe Workplace" theme to miners and mine operators throughout the coal industry.