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MSHA News Release: [02/13/2006]
Contact: Dirk Fillpot
Phone Number: (202) 693-9406
Release Number: 06-275-NAT


MSHA Continues Pursuit of Improved Communications Technology for Miners
Symposium on Wireless Technology in Virginia Latest Stop


WASHINGTON - Representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) participated today in a symposium on wireless communications devices. Existing technology was demonstrated and evaluated at the symposium, held in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

"MSHA is pursuing promising wireless technologies to help ensure safe working environments for miners and improve rescue teams' abilities to locate them should an accident occur," said David G. Dye, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "MSHA is dedicated to conducting a thorough evaluation of existing technologies and pursuing promising technological advances to ensure that every step is taken to improve mine safety."

MSHA personnel at the wireless technology symposium in Virginia discussed a variety of portable communications devices the agency currently allows to be used in coal mines. Telephones and signaling devices must be permissible or intrinsically safe and contain a backup power supply in order to be approved by MSHA for use in coal mines.

Earlier this month, MSHA announced that it is evaluating a personal emergency device (PED) and a locator device for underground mines. MSHA has approved the use of the PED in underground coal mines, but the devices only allow for one-way communication. MSHA is currently surveying underground mines around the U.S. that use the PED to determine its effectiveness and discuss safety and operational issues that have arisen in different mine environments. The agency also has been working with partner organizations to develop wireless technology that would permit two-way communication.

MSHA is sending technical experts to Australia this month to evaluate the effectiveness of the PED and tracker devices in operation at underground mines in that country. MSHA's technical experts will evaluate the tracker device in the only underground coal mine where such a system is currently in operation.

For more information about existing technologies MSHA is evaluating, as well as promising technologies MSHA is considering, visit http://www.msha.gov/techsupp/commoandtracking.asp#existing.

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