MSHA's Winter Alert campaign, which runs annually from October through March, emphasizes increased vigilance and adherence to safety principles during the colder months of the year.
"Miners working underground need to have a heightened awareness of their surroundings as we head into cooler temperatures," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Historically, most mine explosions have occurred in the wintertime, but we hope that heightened awareness will help bring miners home safe every day during this time. Let's all be mindful of the additional potential hazards that accompany the changes of season."
The MSHA campaign theme, "Focus on Examinations," stresses the importance of conducting thorough examinations in order to prevent coal mine ignitions and explosions. A newly released publication, "Don't Let Winter Put You on Ice," addresses hazards specific to surface facilities and prep plants.
All coal mines contain methane, and when the barometric pressure drops during colder weather, methane can migrate more easily into the mine atmosphere, increasing the risk of an explosion. Furthermore, dry winter air results in drier conditions underground. This makes coal dust more likely to get suspended in the mine atmosphere, which creates a greater potential for a mine explosion. Limited visibility, slippery walkways and freezing and thawing highwalls also contribute to potential mishaps during the winter months.
Throughout the Winter Alert campaign, mine safety and health specialists will regularly visit mines around the country to emphasize the importance of awareness about the changing conditions that take place during the winter months. They will distribute decals and posters displaying MSHA's safety messages about the importance of mine examinations at underground mines and dealing with winter hazards at surface operations, along with materials that focus on best practices for performing miners' jobs. They also will provide compliance assistance in developing solutions to health and safety problems that crop up during the colder months.