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DOL News Release No. 04-2018-NAT
U.S. Department of Labor
Contact: Eryn Wichter
Phone: (202) 693-4676
Contact: Suzy Bohnert
Phone: (202) 693-9420

Released Wednesday, October 6, 2004

MSHA Warns Mine Operators to Focus on Winter Hazards
Records Show Most Violent Mining Accidents Occur During Winter


ARLINGTON, Va.-The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today kicked off its annual Winter Alert campaign, which seeks to warn operators and miners at underground coal mines of the hazards that may be brought on in the work environment due to the onset of colder weather. Records indicate that a large number of fatal mining accidents have occurred during winter months.

"It is of the utmost importance that both miners and mine operators understand the changes winter weather brings to the underground mine environment and the precautions they should take to avoid tragic mining accidents this time of year," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Beginning today, our personnel will issue information, talk with operators and miners, and hand out stickers, posters and other informative materials to further educate the mining community about the dangerous changes winter weather can cause in the mining workplace."

The theme for this year's winter alert campaign is "Get a Hold on Winter Alert." It stresses the importance of understanding how weather changes affect the underground mine environment and what remedies mine operators can take to alleviate these hazards.

During winter, low barometric pressures and low humidity, coupled with the seasonal drying of many areas in coal mines, have contributed to conditions conducive to coal mine explosions. Drier air allows for the suspension of coal dust in the atmosphere, which increases the chance of an explosion. Low pressures allow methane to move more easily into active areas, where it can be ignited. Limited visibility during inclement weather, slippery walkways and the freezing and thawing of highwalls all contribute to hazardous conditions that should be addressed during winter months.

Mine operators are encouraged to conduct frequent mine examinations, provide adequate ventilation of underground areas, apply liberal amounts of rock dust and conduct frequent checks for methane gas buildup at their mining operations.

MSHA personnel will distribute many materials throughout the winter months to remind miners and operators of winter hazards. These include posters, hard-hat stickers and decals that focus on the best practices for working safely.

A detailed presentation on winter alert hazards and agency efforts to alleviate those hazards is available on MSHA's Web site at www.msha.gov.