"MSHA's approval of these two models fills a void that currently exists in underground mining," MSHA Acting Administrator David Dye said. "It gives mine operators yet another option for communicating underground and ensuring the safety and well-being of their workers."
The newly approved Kenwood Series 90 conventional transceivers the first to be approved by MSHA in 10 years offer up to 160 channels and operate on VHF (Model TK-290) or UHF (Model TK-390) frequencies.
The units are powered by a rechargeable battery pack, which attaches to the back of the radios to form part of the radio housing. The radios come with approved accessories including a speaker microphone, headset and earphone.
Since 21 coal miners died on the job in the first 2 months of 2006, lawmakers at the federal and state levels have proposed bills requiring mine operators to equip miners with communication and tracking devices. However, mine operators, for the time being, will not be required to use the two portable radio systems, MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said.
MSHA tested the Kenwood radios for safe design and construction in its Approval and Certification center located in West Virginia. The agency says it also is expecting to complete testing of new communication and tracking system technology at Consol Energy's McElroy Mine in Marshall County, W.Va., next week.
The only other MSHA-approved portable radio used underground was made by Motorola but hasn't been sold since 2004.