According to federal statistics, most coal mine explosions have historically occurred in the colder months of the year, between October and March, during a time of significant environmental change.
“Conditions at underground and surface coal mines can change dramatically during colder weather,” MSHA assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.
“Miners and mine operators should always be mindful of the dangers and hazards they may face this time of year.”
Hazards are particularly high during the US winter, as low barometric pressures and low humidity couple with the seasonal drying of many areas in underground coal mines.
Limited visibility is another prevalent issue, as are icy haulage roads and walkways and freezing/thawing cycles at highwalls.
To help prevent winter-related dangers, the agency has warned mines to follow safety checklists by ensuring sufficient ventilation and applying rock dust liberally. Frequent and thorough examinations are also urged, as well as developing a familiarity with emergency procedures to stave off ignitions and explosions.
Miners also should be vigilant about keeping escapeways clear of impediments. Surface mines should examine the highwall stability, remove snow and ice from walkways, de-ice equipment, and apply salt and sand liberally.
During regular rounds, federal inspectors will hand out posters and hardhat stickers with the slogan Beat Winter Hazards, Win with Winter Alert, to alert workers to potential risks.
Those wishing to view and print more copies of the 2010 campaign posters can do so at MSHA’s website.