MSHA Finalizes Mine Safety Standard

MSHA has issued a final rule requiring mine operators to increase the availability of emergency breathing devices, improve emergency evacuation and drill training and install lifelines for emergency evacuation, among other measures.

The rule finalizes an emergency temporary standard that MSHA issued earlier this year. The agency held public hearings to discuss the temporary standard, which was designed to improve miner safety by helping miners evacuate an underground mine during an emergency.

The temporary standard was prompted by a spate of coal mine tragedies early in the year, including a January explosion at the Sago Mine in West Virginia that killed 11 miners.

MSHA's new final rule shows mine operators how to comply with the requirements of the MINER Act, which Congress passed overwhelmingly after coal mining tragedies such as the one in Sago.

"These new requirements are an integrated approach to providing proper guidance to miners and mine operators during emergency situations," MSHA Administrator Richard Stickler said. "The new rule adds additional protections for miners and provides them with more tools to survive a mining accident should one occur."

Other requirements of the new rule include:

  • Additional self-contained self-rescue (SCSR) devices for persons in underground coal mines – in working places, on mantrips, in escapeways and where outby crews work or travel.
  • Submission of a revised training plan and a revised program of instruction for improved training on SCSRs; it includes a new requirement for annual SCSR expectations training (training in smoke or simulated smoke and breathing through a realistic training unit).
  • Improved quarterly emergency mine evacuation training, including a drill.
  • Installation of lifelines.
  • Additional multi-gas detectors to alert miners as to when to don SCSRs.

One of the more significant results of the new rule is the establishment of only one phone number for use in reporting mine accidents within 15 minutes after it is known that an accident occurred. All mine operators, including operators of metal and non-metal mines, must call (800) 746-1553 to report mining accidents within the required time limit.

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