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MSHA News Release No. 98-0813
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown or Katharine Snyder
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Thursday, August 13, 1998

MSHA Sets Deadline on Breathing Devices for Underground Coal Miners

The Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), along with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), have determined that certain Ocenco, Inc., breathing devices are no longer considered approved breathing devices in that these devices may not function as designed and approved. Accordingly, MSHA is requiring that the devices be refurbished or replaced by Dec. 31, 1998.

MSHA requires that each underground miner be equipped with an approved one-hour breathing device which could be used during a mine emergency.

MSHA and NIOSH have found that wearers of the Ocenco EBA 6.5 self-contained self-rescuers manufactured during the period June 1, 1997 through March 31, 1998, may encounter elevated breathing resistance while using the device. Some users, particularly those with respiratory problems, may be at higher risk in attempting to use the device properly and effectively in an underground emergency situation.

MSHA previously notified the mining community about the potential problem and informed them that MSHA and NIOSH were working with the manufacturer to determine what actions were necessary to correct the problem. It was determined that the devices should be refurbished or replaced. The agency is now setting a deadline for that to be accomplished.

The problem with the elevated breathing resistance should not significantly impact most users. Miners have been instructed to use the device, should an emergency arise, until mine operators refurbish or replace them with other available, MSHA/NIOSH-approved breathing devices.

The resistance problem was discovered during a routine product audit. Two Ocenco EBA 6.5 self-contained self-rescue devices were tested and exhibited elevated levels of breathing resistance. Subsequent testing conducted determined that an exhalation valve diaphragm was the source of the increased exhalation breathing resistance. Ocenco has taken corrective action to assure that the exhalation valve diaphragm installed in units produced or factory serviced after April 1, 1998, conform to approval requirements.

MSHA is notifying operators of underground mines to make prompt arrangements to have the affected breathing devices replaced. Devices produced during the period June 1, 1997, through March 31, 1998, may be identified by the serial number, the first four digits of which indicate the year and month of manufacture. For example, a serial number that appears as "9706

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" would have been produced in June of 1997.

Operators of underground mines must have these Ocenco devices refurbished or replaced by Dec. 31, 1998, to avoid enforcement actions by MSHA.