[Federal Register: July 15, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 135)]
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Mine Safety and Health Administration
30 CFR Parts 14, 18, and 75
Requirements for Approval of Flame-Resistant Conveyor Belts
AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Labor.
ACTION: Proposed rule; withdrawal.
SUMMARY: This document withdraws the proposed rule that would have
established a new laboratory-scale flame test for conveyor belts used
in underground coal mines. This rulemaking was initiated in 1989 in
response to a number, over the prior 12 years, of reportable (i.e.,
greater than 30 minutes) conveyor belt fires attributable to belt
material. Since that time, accident and injury data reflect a decline
in the number of these fires. We attribute this decrease in conveyor
belt fires to improvements in belt monitoring and maintenance, along
with technological advances in conveyor systems. Therefore, in the
absence of a need for rulemaking, MSHA is withdrawing the proposed
DATES: This proposed rule published on December 24, 1992, is withdrawn
as of July 15, 2002.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marvin W. Nichols, Jr., Director,
Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, 1100 Wilson
Blvd., Room 2313, Arlington, Virginia 22209-3939, Nichols.Marvin@dol.gov, (202) 693-9440 (telephone), (202) 693-9441
(facsimile). You can request a copy of this withdrawal notice in an
alternate format, such as a large print version, an electronic file or
a file on a disk. This withdrawal notice is available on MSHA's
Internet site, www.msha.gov, at the "Statutory and Regulatory
On January 17, 1989, in response to a number of conveyor belt fires
in underground coal mines, MSHA announced a public meeting to discuss
the development of a revised laboratory-scale flame resistance test for
conveyor belts (54 FR 1802). MSHA investigated 293 underground coal
mine fires between 1970 and 1988, and determined that conveyor belts
were involved in 53 of those fires. During this 19 year period, 36 of
the 53 belt fires (68%) occurred during the 9 years between 1980 and
After reviewing the testimony and comments from the mining and
manufacturing communities, as well as the specific recommendations from
MSHA's Belt Air Advisory Committee, ``Belt Entry Ventilation Review:
Report of Findings and Recommendations'' (1989), MSHA chose to pursue
rulemaking. During the next several years, MSHA worked closely with the
former Bureau of Mines to develop a new laboratory-scale test for
determining the flame resistance of conveyor belts, and the two
agencies jointly developed a laboratory-scale test for assessing the
flame resistance of conveyor belts which would measure flame
propagation rather than burn time, as the current test does. On
December 24, 1992, MSHA published the proposed rule (57 FR 61524) which
would have replaced the existing standards for testing and acceptance
of conveyor belts with the new test.
B. Reasons for Withdrawal
The number of conveyor belt fires has significantly declined since
MSHA began work on this rulemaking. During the 10 years since this
proposed rule was published (1993-2002), the industry reported 10
conveyor belt fires, as compared with the 34 reported fires during the
10 years before publication (1983-1992). Further, the injuries to
miners from the fires reported since MSHA initiated this rulemaking
consist of smoke inhalation during two of the fires. This decrease is
due largely to belt monitoring improvements that alert miners to
potentially hazardous situations which could cause fires, and to
technological advances that minimize friction on the belt, a primary
cause of belt fires.
The most notable improvement in belt monitoring is the mining
industry's increased use of atmospheric monitoring systems (AMS)in
conveyor belt passageways. Monitoring systems in general give advance
warning to allow a fire in a belt entry to be addressed sooner, thereby
limiting potential fire damage and injuries to miners. An AMS can
further provide advance warning of carbon monoxide (CO) and methane
(CH4) concentrations, thereby allowing the opportunity to
address potentially hazardous situations.
Although AMSs have been in use for many years, these systems have
rapidly become more sophisticated, evolving from simple monitors into
complex devices with integral computer technology capable of
transmitting environmental measurements from remote locations to
attended mine areas.
The industry practice of ventilating active working places in the
mine with air coursed through the belt haulageway has contributed to
the increased use of belt monitoring systems, and has thereby
indirectly contributed to the decrease in the severity of belt fires.
Currently this practice is only allowed in a mine after MSHA grants a
petition for modification of the safety standard that requires entries
used to course air to the mine face and working areas to be separate
from belt haulage entries.
During the past 15 years, MSHA has granted more than 100 of these
petitions. Each petition involves a thorough on-site investigation to
determine that safety measures exist to address the concerns normally
associated with coursing belt air to working places. The primary
concern is combustion products from a fire on or near the conveyor belt
being carried to the miners. The required system of safeguards, which
includes ability to monitor and detect conditions which could
contribute to fires in the belt haulageway, is actively in place at all
these mines. MSHA is currently pursuing a separate rulemaking that
would permit the use of belt air in active working places, conditioned
on the use of AMS systems, required for approval of these petitions, as
well as additional safety measures.
The mining industry has also benefitted from many technological
advances in conveyor belt systems, and has applied this technology at
many mines since this proposed rule was published. Improvements in belt
rollers, roller bearings, slippage alignment, and belt rip detection
have been instrumental in minimizing friction. Also, flame-resistant
pulley lagging and roller covers are available for belt rollers. Some
roller bearings are permanently sealed, which prevents combustible
lubricants from igniting and involving the belt, and also eliminates
some maintenance requirements. A number of slippage control systems
which monitor the sequence systems on each conveyor are in use today.
When a conveyor is not moving, a slippage switch automatically shuts
down all conveyors behind the stopped conveyor. Rip detection systems
continually scan the belt and notify miners of rips or tears.
A number of devices, such as chute liners and belt skirting,
control the flow of coal at transfer points. These devices not only
reduce the amount of coal that spills, thereby minimizing a source of
combustible material, but also help reduce the level of combustible
coal dust in the atmosphere. Finally, automated systems provide more
reliable and accurate readings of conditions that could potentially result in hazards to miners.
For all the reasons stated herein, this proposed rule is withdrawn.
Signed at Arlington, VA, this 8th day of July 2002.
Dave D. Lauriski,
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.
[FR Doc. 02-17652 Filed 7-12-02; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4510-43-P