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MSHA Initiative Promotes Rib Safety in Underground Coal Mines

July 9, 2012
MSHA has an important message for underground coal mine operators: Check the ribs.

To address safety concerns surrounding ribs – a type of roof control in underground mines that secures the top and sides of walls and travel ways – MSHA is launching the 2012 Preventive Roof Rib Outreach Program (PROP), an initiative that will focus on improved mine rib control.

The number of injuries resulting from roof and rib failures increased from 439 in 2010 to 484 in 2011. Furthermore, in 2010, the number of fatal rib failure accidents (in which the walls in the underground mine crumble from pressure) exceeded the number of typical roof fall accidents for the first time ever, by a margin of one. In 2011, fatal rib failure accidents again outnumbered fatal roof fall accidents by one.

Most recently, on June 25, a Kentucky coal miner lost his life when he was crushed by a rib roll.

"Rib failures pose as much of a danger as the more typical roof fall accidents, and [the June 25] tragic death was a telling example," said MSHA Administrator Joseph A. Main. "We are concerned that there was only a slight decrease in fatalities from these accidents between 2010 and 2011, and we are even more concerned about the increase last year in the number of miners who were injured in these accidents. Clearly, we must reinvigorate our efforts to educate mine operators and miners about ways to alleviate hazards."

Rib Control

Improper examinations of roof and rib conditions often lead to preventable but potentially deadly roof and rib failure accidents. With these concerns in mind, MSHA's 2012 PROP will focus on improved mine rib control.

As part of the initiative, MSHA will distribute specific information to underground mine operators and miners about these dangers, as well as methods to thoroughly check and address hazardous roof and rib conditions. MSHA inspectors also will distribute informational posters that identify rib control problems and list several possible solutions.

The agency first introduced the PROP initiative in 2009, when the program featured the slogan, "Just because it's supported doesn't mean it's safe."

Visit the 2012 PROP page to learn more.

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