Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452
March 11, 1996
Federal Mine Safety Agency Announces Improved Ventilation Rules
The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today announced it has published a series of improvements to Federal regulations for ventilation of all of the nation's underground coal mines. The final ventilation rules result from significant input from all sectors of the mining community.
The final rule appeared in the Federal Register today.
"We believe that the ventilation rule we have today will give miners more protection in their work environment than ever before," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "This is very important because adequate ventilation is fundamental to operating an underground coal mine in a safe manner."
"This rule will improve safety by emphasizing prevention, for example, through workplace examinations for hazards. The rule will streamline and modernize record keeping and is also presented in a way that's easy for miners and mine operators to understand," said McAteer.
Ventilation is the primary method used to prevent the accumulation of potentially explosive methane gas in underground coal mines. Failures in proper ventilation have led to catastrophic explosions and problems with escape from mine fires in the past.
Some of the key provisions of the new rule include:
- -- revised requirements for pre-shift and on-shift examinations
of the workplace, including examination of respirable dust
- -- permissible exposure limits for oxygen and carbon dioxide
in certain areas of the mine;
- -- a requirement for a pressure recorder or fan monitoring
system at all times on main mine fans, the mechanical
force behind a mine's ventilation (operators who do not
currently have the device are given time to comply);
- -- revised evacuation requirements when a main mine fan stops; and
- -- increased opportunity for miners' representatives to
participate in a mine's ventilation plan approval process.
In May 1992, MSHA published a final ventilation rule that was challenged due to concerns raised by the mining community. The agency re-examined the rule, addressing the concerns raised by those objecting to certain provisions, and proposed a new rule in May 1994. Members of the mining community were invited to comment on the newly proposed ventilation rule and public hearings were held. This input assisted the agency in forming the final rule announced today.
"This new ventilation rule is the result of meaningful and constructive comments and suggestions from various segments of a mining community that is truly concerned about safety," McAteer continued. "The rulemaking process, which allows for the exchange of useful information among all interested parties in the development of a regulation, was the driving force behind producing what we expect will be a set of effective and practical mining workplace standards."
McAteer added, "It is this spirit of cooperation that we hope will continue when we address other important mine safety rules, particularly those concerning the use of belt air at the face in underground coal mines."
The new ventilation regulations become effective June 10, 1996, with the exception of a few provisions that will be required by June 1997.
The ventilation rules cover about 50,000 miners working at approximately 1,100 underground coal mines in the nation.