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DOL Press Release - 05-1935-NAT
U.S. Department of Labor
Contact: Suzy Bohnert    Dirk Fillpot
Phone: (202) 693-9420    (202) 693-4676


Released Tuesday, October 11, 2005

MSHA Kicks Off "Winter Alert" Campaign

ARLINGTON, Va.-The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today, through its "Winter Alert" campaign, warned U.S. mine operators and miners at underground coal mines of workplace hazards that can arise when the weather turns colder. MSHA records indicate that, historically, most explosions in underground coal mines occur during winter months.

"The changes in weather can increase the risk of fatal accidents," said David G. Dye, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Each miner and mine operator must take individual responsibility to eliminate the kinds of hazards that can cause fatal accidents in the workplace. Safety is not the other guy's job-safety begins with you."

In fact, MSHA's slogan for this year's campaign is "Winter Alert Starts Now And Safety Begins With YOU." This messages reminds miners and mine operators of the risks of colder weather and educates them about helping to reduce risks and hazards.

"Safety requires the joint effort of both management and labor," Dye continued. "Everyone at the mine site must see safety as an individual value and act to ensure a safe working environment."

During winter, low barometric pressure and 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, increasing the chance of an explosion. Low pressure allows methane to move more easily into active areas, where it can possibly ignite. Additionally, limited visibility during inclement weather, icy mine access roads and haul roads, slippery walkways, and the freezing and thawing process on highwalls 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 rockdust, and frequently check for methane gas buildup at their work site.

Agency personnel are visiting mine sites and speaking to miners and mine operators about the winter alert hazards. Today and throughout the winter, MSHA mine inspectors will hand out stickers, posters and decals that warn miners and operators of the unique dangers brought on by colder weather.

More information on mine safety and health can be viewed on the Internet at www.msha.gov.