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DOL/MSHA News Release
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (202) 693-9425

Released Tuesday, September 9, 2003

MSHA Issues Final Rule on Mine Emergency Actions

Arlington, VA- The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today announced it will issue a final rule specifying actions mine operators must take in the event of an underground coal mine emergency. The new rule supercedes an emergency temporary standard (ETS) issued by MSHA in December 2002 in response to investigative findings surrounding the Sept. 23, 2001, explosion at Jim Walter Resources Mine #5 in Brookwood, Ala., that claimed the lives of 13 miners.

"Often during emergency situations, confusion, disorientation, and questions about what to do or how to proceed can inhibit and delay sound decision-making and leadership," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "This new rule establishes a single point of contact for miners underground to look to for guidance in the event of a mine emergency and it provides for better training of miners to prepare for such situations. This rule provides one more tool to help send more miners home safe at the end of every working day."

As with the ETS, the new rule requires operators of underground coal mines to designate, for each shift that miners work underground, a responsible person to take charge during a mine fire, explosion and gas or water inundation emergency. The new rule requires the responsible person to initiate and conduct an immediate evacuation of the mine when there is a mine emergency that presents an imminent danger to miners.

The new rule also broadens the existing requirements for a program of instruction for firefighting and evacuation to address fire, explosion, and gas or water inundation emergencies. In addition, the new rule amends Part 48 of CFR 30, Mineral Resources, to require that annual refresher training for miners include a review of the emergency evacuation and firefighting plans in effect at their mine.

Full text of the rule can be found on MSHA's web site at www.msha.gov. The final rule becomes effective on Tues., Sept. 9, 2003.