The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has announced a final rule that will strengthen protections for miners on the working section of underground coal mines by reducing the potential for pinning, crushing, or striking accidents. Since 1984, there have been 35 deaths where miners have been pinned, crushed, or struck by continuous mining machines in underground coal mines. MSHA projects that the rule will prevent 49 injuries and 9 deaths over the next ten years.
The rule requires operators of underground coal mines to equip place-changing continuous mining machines with proximity detection systems, which use electronic sensors on both mining machines and miners to detect motion or the location of one object relative to another. Certain operational standards must be met. For example, the system must include audible and visual warnings and cause machines to stop before contacting a miner.
The rule takes effect March 16, 2015 and will be phased in over 8 to 36 months. Based on manufacturer information, nearly half of the continuous mining machines in operation - 425 of approximately 863 - are equipped with proximity detection systems. Most will meet the provisions of the final rule with only minor system changes, such as adding warning signals.