Within the communication formally known as RIN 1219-AB40, the agency said it seeks to allow the use of portable fire extinguishers in underground anthracite operation active sections that have no face electrical capabilities and have a production rate of 300 tons per shift or less, rather than have the mines follow current rules.
Additionally, the amendment would require all underground coal mines to possess an additional fire extinguisher instead of rock dust at electrical installations that are temporary.
"ecause of the explosive nature of coal dust and the possible presence of methane gas, there is great potential for a fire to spread to other areas of the underground coal mine," MSHA said.
"Historical records demonstrate that the consequences of a fire in an underground coal mine can be disastrous."
The existing safety standards, to ensure firefighting equipment is available to prevent fire and potential growth, can be found under 30 CFR part 75, subpart L - Fire Protection.
Under the section's Sec 75.1100-1 paragraph, the agency outlines portable fire extinguisher criteria to include:
(1) A multipurpose dry chemical type containing a nominal weight of five pounds of dry powder and enough expellant to apply the powder; or
(2) A foam-producing type containing at least 2.5 gallons of foam-producing liquids and enough expellant to supply the foam.
Only fire extinguishers approved by the Underwriters Laboratories or Factory Mutual Research that carry the appropriate purpose and type labelling are permitted, the agency said.
The new rule has several benefits, MSHA said, including reduced injury risk from lifting and moving rock dust bags which would be replaced by more easily hauled extinguisher units.
"The most significant benefit is that rock dust, that can quickly be rendered ineffective by dampness, can be replaced immediately by a more effective and reliable fire suppressant, a portable fire extinguisher," said the agency.
MSHA has asked that all comments be filed by its Federal e-Rulemaking portal, fax, mail or hand delivery by midnight Eastern time February 4. Once submitted, the agency will post all input, unchanged, on its website.
The full document can be reviewed at http://www.msha.gov/REGS/FEDREG/PROPOSED/2007PROP/E7-24747.asp.