MSHA issues emergency mine evacuation standard

IN A rare move the US Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued an emergency temporary standard for emergency mine evacuations, which came into effect yesterday.
MSHA issues emergency mine evacuation standard MSHA issues emergency mine evacuation standard MSHA issues emergency mine evacuation standard MSHA issues emergency mine evacuation standard MSHA issues emergency mine evacuation standard

International Coal Group's Sago mine in West Virginia.

Donna Schmidt

The order was issued Wednesday and published in the Federal Register Thursday. It is only the third such move in the 28-year history of the Mine Act.

“We want to ensure that every miner has the equipment and training to get out,” MSHA acting deputy assistant secretary Bob Friend said. The regulations are now in effect, all of which have a 30-day window for compliance, according to the documentation.

MSHA representative Dirk Fillpot spoke with International Longwall News about the three significant items included in the standards, which include immediate agency notification of any underground or surface operation within 15 minutes of realisation, storage and use of self-contained self-rescue devices (SCSRs), training for evacuations and the maintenance of underground communication.

“The emergency temporary standard will be in place for nine months and serves as a proposed rule while immediately requiring those changes,” Fillpot said.

“MSHA will need to issue a final rule before the end of that nine-month period to make permanent those changes.”

MSHA, he added, is planning a series of public meetings throughout the US to collect comments on the ETS and allow concerned parties to make presentations. All gatherings will commence at 9am local time, according to the filing, and will allow time for the agency to address the audience as well as for those in attendance to speak publicly; prior written notification is not necessary.

The meetings have been scheduled for the following locations:

  • April 11 – Charleston, WV – Marriot Town Center
  • April 24 – Lakewood, CO – Sheraton Denver West
  • April 26 – Lexington, KY – Sheraton Suites
  • April 28 – Arlington, VA – MSHA Conference Room, 25th Floor

Written comments will be accepted until May 30 and are to be submitted to its Office of Standards, Regulations and Variances, 1100 Wilson Blvd. Room 2350, Arlington, Va. 22209-3939; fax: 202-693-9441. Comments are also accepted at www.regulations.gov or by e-mail to zzMSHA-comments@dol.gov, referencing RIN 1219 AB46 in the subject line.

MSHA acting assistant secretary David Dye said the changes were vital to the future of mine safety.

“This year’s tragic mine accidents in West Virginia require immediate action to put in place additional safety requirements to help miners successfully evacuate a mine when an emergency occurs,” Dye said.

“MSHA is moving forward on every front to improve protections for miners’ safety and health.”

MSHA associate solicitor Ed Clair concurred: “What the agency is accomplishing today is putting immediately into effect a rule that addresses four critical areas that need to be addressed given the events of Sago and Aracoma. These [regulations] were the ones the agency felt addressed the hazardous conditions that were encountered at [both mines].”

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