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MSHA News Release No. 99-0510a
Mine Safety and Health Administration - USDOL
CONTACT: Rodney Brown
PHONE: 703-235-1452

Released Monday, May 10, 1999

Seminars in Ky., Va., W.Va., Aimed at Ending Roof Falls
MSHA's New PROP Program Calls Attention to Hazards That Lead to Roof Falls

A new effort is underway to increase awareness among coal mine operators and miners concerning the hazards that lead to fatal roof fall accidents in underground coal mines, according to the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration. MSHA today announced a new initiative called the Preventive Roof/Rib Outreach Program, or PROP, which will serve to remind operators and workers of precautions necessary to prevent these accidents.

"The time has come to put an end to the deadly falls of roof and rib that occur all to often in underground coal mines," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "There are two things both operators and miners need to do to eliminate these accidents from the mining landscape. One is to conduct thorough and frequent checks of the mine roof. The other is never, ever work or walk under unsupported roof."

During the 10-year period in which MSHA's previous roof fall prevention program was in effect, annual roof fall deaths dropped from 34 in 1984 to 7 in 1994. However, roof fall fatalities have become more frequent in recent years. Of the 29 coal mining fatalities in 1998, 14 or 64 percent, of the underground deaths were due to roof fall accidents. There were nine roof fall fatalities in 1997, which represented 50 percent of all underground mining fatalities for that year.

McAteer continued, "We need to be sure that each mine operator and each miner at every underground coal mine is educated about the specific hazards that lead to roof falls and how these tragic accidents can best be prevented."

To that end, MSHA has developed the new PROP program, an informational campaign aimed at making miners and operators aware of the problems concerning roof control hazards. Under PROP, MSHA will target mining operations most often cited for violation of rules concerning roof control and walking or working under unsupported roof. Those mines will receive increased attention from MSHA inspectors who will speak directly to miners and operators about mine roof and rib safety. The inspectors will also provide materials, such as posters, hard hat stickers, and "best practices" cards which state specifically how miners and operators can prevent roof falls from occurring at their mine sites.

MSHA is also developing videos for the mining community that call attention to roof fall hazards and demonstrate methods for avoiding such accidents. A booklet which depicts, describes and analyzes all fatal roof fall accidents in the last three years will be made available so that miners and operators can see how these accidents happen and see how they could have been prevented. Large reflective signs which warn miners of roof fall dangers will be permanently placed in the work area of underground mines where they can be seen constantly by workers there. Efforts are also underway to make roof bolts more obvious to the naked eye so that working miners may easily see where safe, supported mine roof ends and unsupported roof begins.

"We need to bring the message home to miners and operators that roof falls can occur at their mine when specific safety precautions are ignored," continued McAteer.

To kick off the new PROP program, MSHA will hold four seminars in coal mining areas of Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. These three states have 78 percent of the Nation's underground coal mines and have experienced 79 percent of all underground roof fall fatalities since 1983. The seminars will seek to educate miners and mine operators of specific roof control techniques that may employed to prevent roof fall accidents. Seminars are scheduled for May 25 in Pikeville, Ky.; May 27 in Norton, Va.; July 20 in Hazard, Ky.; and July 22 in Logan, W.Va.

Interested parties are invited to attend. Those who wish to register for either seminar may contact John Rosiek at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beckley, W.Va., at 304-256-3211.

MSHA will also solicit the assistance of state mining agencies and other mining associations to help bring focus to the problem of roof fall hazards in underground coal mines.