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Pittsburgh Safety & Health Technology Center

In support of the MSHA mission, the Pittsburgh Safety & Health Technology Center (PSHTC) provides engineering, scientific, and technical expertise to other Agency program areas.

The PSHTC conducts in-mine studies to maintain the health and safety of miners; participates in accident investigations; assists in mine emergency operations; issues approvals for mine seal designs meeting established standards; reviews mining plans; and operates analytical and calibration laboratories in support of the MSHA enforcement programs.

Contact Information

626 Cochrans Mill Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15236
(412) 386-6902

The Center is organized into eight divisions.

Dust Division

The Dust Division provides engineering and technical assistance to the mining industry for the control and abatement of solid particulates present in the mining environment.  It also gathers, compiles, and analyzes information regarding concentrations of respirable dust, silica, diesel particulate matter (DPM), trace metals, and related substances, and identifies health hazards that may result from overexposure. The Division also develops procedures and formulates precautions to be taken to minimize the degree and extent of hazards. Furthermore, the Dust Division receives and analyzes respirable dust samples collected by mine operators as required by Section 202(a) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. The Division also provides assistance in reducing exposure to environmental dusts.

Mine Electrical Systems Division

The Mine Electrical Systems Division provides electrical engineering services related to the safe use of electricity during the extraction and processing of mineral resources. Project areas include high and low voltage power distribution, mining equipment controls, elevators, hoists, wire rope evaluations and testing, power electronics, and computer control. The Division disseminates technical procedures for the safe use, installation, maintenance, and testing of these electrical systems and equipment. It also develops specialized test equipment, devices, and instruments needed to make these evaluations.

Mine Emergency Operations Division

The Mine Emergency Operations Division coordinates and facilitates the on-site activities of MSHA during deployments to mine emergencies. The Division deploys and operates the MSHA Underground Communications and Mine Tracking System and the MSHA Mine Rescue Robots during mine emergencies. It also coordinates the activities of the Mine Emergency Unit (MEU) during mine emergencies and recovery operations and provides periodic training to the MEU’s within MSHA and the mining industry. The Division is responsible for reviewing and approving mine seal designs for use in isolating unventilated mine atmospheres from active mine workings. Furthermore, the Division performs nationwide technical assistance and support for mine seals across the design, construction, certification, and acceptance phases.

Mine Waste and Geotechnical Engineering Division

The Mine Waste and Geotechnical Engineering Division provides technical assistance and engineering services to evaluate and solve problems in the coal and metal/nonmetal mining industries involving the fields of civil and mining engineering. Areas of Division expertise are geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, dam safety, hydrology, fluid mechanics, materials science, mining under or near bodies of water, and haulage. The Division reviews, evaluates, and recommends actions to be taken in connection with the handling and disposal of mine waste and the construction of refuse piles, waste dams, tailings embankments, impoundments, water dams, and sediment control dams. Other specific issues the Division is equipped to deal with include slope stability (including surface mine highwalls and open pit slopes); foundations; soil and rock mechanics; rock falls; retaining walls; bulkhead design and construction; mine structure design and condition assessment; haul road design and layout; safety berms; stock piles and surge piles; subsidence; shaft sinking; tunneling; surface and underground flooding; demolition; and surveying. Division services include field and accident investigations; in-depth review of engineering designs and plans; expert witness testimony; and training.

National Air and Dust Laboratory Division

The National Air and Dust Laboratory Division is responsible for the analysis of air and gas samples collected during routine MSHA inspections and special investigations conducted in coal and metal/nonmetal mines, and during laboratory and field studies pertinent to the health and safety of workers in the mining industry. The analysis of coal mine dust is performed to determine the total incombustible content (TIC), the presence and/or degree of coking, the amount of float dust, and the silica content. The majority of samples submitted for analysis are collected by MSHA inspectors during mine inspections, in accordance with the mandatory safety and health requirements established by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, and in other investigations of hazards from toxic or explosive gases and combustible mine dust. The laboratory provides technical assistance, consultation, and guidance to MSHA, the mining industry, and other federal and state government agencies. Personnel remain abreast of the latest developments in the area of fire and explosion prevention research and provide assistance at mine sites during mine emergency operations.

Physical and Toxic Agents Division

The Physical and Toxic Agents Division provides technical assistance to inspection personnel and the mining industry for the purpose of reducing exposure to harmful physical and toxic agents, such as noise, vibration, heat stress, and toxic liquids, vapors or gases present in the mining environment.  The Division gathers information and analyzes mine environmental conditions for exposure determinations, instrument evaluation, development of adequate engineering controls, and the modification or development of standards and regulations.  It also conducts field investigations to provide the latest scientific data in support of MSHA's inspection activities and to assist mine operators in achieving compliance with established exposure standards.  Furthermore, the Division conducts studies and evaluations of mine air samples and ionizing radiation.  It also maintains a Mobile Gas Analysis Laboratory for on-site use in times of emergency.

Roof Control Division

The Roof Control Division provides engineering and geological technical services concerning the evaluation of ground support systems, mine design, and actual ground conditions at underground mining operations. The Division maintains specialized laboratories for the testing of ground support products and for the forecasting of the potential for ground control problems through remote sensing analyses. It also monitors the applications of automated temporary roof support (ATRS) systems, cabs, and canopies to mining equipment.

Ventilation Division

The Ventilation Division conducts field evaluations of plant and mine ventilation systems, develops digital and laboratory simulations to analyze ventilation systems, and monitors the mine atmosphere during mine rescue and recovery operations. The Division also advises Command Center for a mine emergency of the mine atmosphere explosibility, withdrawal limits for rescue/recovery personnel, effectiveness of the firefighting activities, and status of a mine fire. Furthermore, the Division investigates the causes and means to prevent future accidents, including mine fires and explosions. Division staff members also train mining industry personnel in plant and mine ventilation, gas detection, and prevention and control of fires and explosions.

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