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MSHA News Release No. 98-0716
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (703) 235-1452

MSHA Promoting Use of Video Cameras to Eliminate "Blind Spot" Accidents

The Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is encouraging mine operators and miners to look at the possibility of the use of video cameras on large, mobile vehicles at U.S. surface mining operations to decrease the chances of accidents occurring due to "blind spots" or areas where the vehicle operator does not have a clear view from the cab. MSHA reports that more than 100 miners died in accidents over a recent ten year period in which "blind spots" either caused or contributed to the accident.

"This is a practical application of existing technology that potentially can have a major impact on improving safety around these unusually large vehicles," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We have contacted key industry leaders and reached out to many mine operators and miners to inform them of this practice which, I believe, can help save lives."

Operators of large, mobile equipment, also referred to as powered haulage equipment, encounter blind spots when operating the equipment because of its massive size. The blind spots on equipment, such as off-highway haulage trucks, are a hazard for other workers at the mine site who may not always be in clear view of the driver. Workers could be seriously injured or killed if struck by such a vehicle or otherwise involved in an accident in which a vehicle strikes other objects on mine property due to restricted visibility. Powered haulage fatalities have been one of the leading causes of fatal accidents in coal and metal and nonmetal mining over the last several years.

"Encouraging the use of this technology is just part of MSHA's comprehensive effort to address the on-going problem of powered haulage hazards at surface mines," said McAteer. "Just two weeks ago, we conducted a well-attended and well-received powered haulage safety seminar for mining industry personnel at our Mine Academy in Beckley, W.Va."

One mining company in California, U.S. Borax, is effectively using strategically placed video cameras on large haulage trucks. Cameras are connected to a monitor positioned in the operator cab to eliminate blind spots. U.S. Borax claims to have significantly reduced the problem of operator blind spots by using the video technology. Cameras are affixed to the rear and side of the vehicle. The pictures are then shown on the monitor in the operator cab giving the vehicle operator a clear view of areas behind and on the "blind" side of the vehicle.

"We want to see many more mining operations employ this or other available technology to reduce the chances of blind spot accidents occurring," continued McAteer. "Figures show that the cost for using this technology is minimal compared to the great potential benefit it provides for worker safety."

MSHA is forwarding copies of an introductory videotape that discusses use of the video cameras on the mobile equipment to all major mining associations and to operators of surface mines where blind spot accidents have occurred in recent years.