Science not speculation

SCIENTIFIC reasons and not speculation are what the US mining industry and legislators need to base their decisions on future mine safety, National Mine Safety Technology Task Force chairman Dr Larry Grayson told attendees at the West Virginia Coal Association’s annual symposium last week. Donna Caudill reports from the event.
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National Mine Safety Technology Task Force chairman Dr. Larry Grayson.

Donna Schmidt

“[We] need to look at the scientific reasons,” said National Mine Safety Technology Task Force chairman Dr Larry Grayson, regarding the rash of accidents and high fatality rate of miners last year that brought about a renewed surge of emergency and mine safety focus.

“There’s a whole lot of [thoughts] on why things might have happened … but it’s all speculation,” he said.

Grayson took the podium first to offer an executive summary of the task force’s report, which outlines 75 recommendations for improved mine safety and rescue in a small handful of categories.

Four of the recommendations in the report are under the heading of risk-based design and management, with seven in the area of communications technology, 40 under emergency response and mine rescue, five with regards to training for preparedness, and 19 under the umbrella of escape and protection strategies.

In addition, Grayson outlined some of the injury and fatality-related statistics of the last several years, reflecting an average 5.5 fires annually between 1996 and 2005. There were also 69.4 average yearly instances of ignition or explosion at US mines during the same time period and 19.7 inundations nationwide.

The task force also found that underground fatalities can involve any one of a number of factors brought about by the operator or the miners themselves, including the state of preparedness, a slow turnaround in the reporting of an incident and communications.

Grayson noted that neither he nor the task force team could speculate on the actions to be taken by the US Congress, Mine Safety and Health Administration or the country’s operators regarding the report in terms of legislation, new rulings or independent initiatives at mines, but said the industry need not think all 75 recommendations must be put in place at once.

“It’s not all or nothing,” he said. “Pick what works for you. It does, however, call for a fundamental change [in protocol] to protect these miners.”

Keep watching International Longwall News and the next issue of American Longwall Magazine for detailed information on the National Mine Safety Technology Task Force’s report.