November 5, 1998
PROPOSED DECISION AND ORDER the matter of
ON American Salt Company
PETITION FOR MODIFICATION No. M-97-10-M
On September 25, 1997, a petition was filed by North American Salt Company seeking a modification of the application of 30 CFR §57.15031 to petitioner's Cote Blanche Mine (1.D. No. 16-00358) located near Lydia, St. Mary County, Louisiana. The petition alleged that the proposed alternative method of allowing self rescue devices to be stored, rather than worn by the miner, in strategic locations readily accessible to miners, would at all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection afforded by the standard.
Standard 57.15031, Location of Self-Rescue Devices, provides:
Except as provided in paragraph (b) and (c) of this section, self-rescue devices meeting the requirements of standard 57.15030 shall be worn or carried by all persons underground.
Where the wearing or carrying of self-rescue devices meeting the requirements of standard 57.15030 is ha2ardous to a person, such self-rescue devices shall be located at a distance no greater than 25 feet from such person.
Where a person works on or around mobile equipment, self-rescue devices may be placed in a readily accessible location on such equipment.
Petitioner proposes as an alternative method to this requirement that self-rescue devices be positioned where each miner may reach a device in not over 20 minutes from the work area. The proposed alternative method would also provide for labeling of storage locations and for review of storage locations with miners as part of initial and refresher training. The proposed alternative method would also provide that the number of self-rescue units in the mine would be no less than 1.5 times the maximum number of people on the shift. Additionally,
units would be visually inspected each shift and tested in accordance with manufacturers' recommendations.
Insupport of this alternative method, petitioner alleges that the wearing of self-rescue devices presents and increased likelihood of back injury. Petitioner also states that the daily movement in and out of the mine of miners wearing self-rescue devices subjects the device to fluctuations in temperature and humidity and physical wear. Petitioner states that this could have some effect on the reliability of the rescue devices.
MSHA investigators conducted an investigation relevant to the merits of the petition and filed a report of their fmdings with the Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health. After a careful review of the entire record, including the petition and investigative report, this Proposed Decision and Order is issued.
FINDING OF FACT AND CONCLUSION OF LAW
The alternative method proposed by the petitioner will not at all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection as afforded miners under 30 CFR § 57.15031. Personal self rescue devices are intended to be worn by underground miners so that in the event of a mine fire or similar emergency, miners would be able to quickly put on and use their device to escape from the mine unhurt. Storing these devices at a location some distance from where they work or travel would not provide the same level of protection afforded by the standard, in that any delay in reaching and using the devices in an emergency could cost miners their lives. The possibility of back injuries and the un documented effect of flucuating atmosphere are insufficient to overcome this detmnination.
Wherefore, pursuant to the authority delegated by the Secmary of Labor or the Administrator for Metal md Nonmetal Mine Safety and HeaJdumd pursuant to Section 101(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C. Section 811(c), it is ordeed tbat the petition for modification of the application of 30 CFR §57.15031 to the Cote Blanche Mine as it pertains to storing self rescue devices in strategic locations for by miners underground in the event of a mine emergency is hereby DENDID.