Most explosions in underground coal mines have occurred during winter, when low barometric pressure and humidity, coupled with the seasonal drying of many areas in mines, have contributed to conditions conducive to explosions.
Drier air allows for the suspension of coal dust in the atmosphere, increasing the chance of an explosion. Low pressure allows methane to move more easily into active areas, where it can possibly ignite.
Additionally, limited visibility during inclement weather, icy mine access roads and haul roads, slippery walkways, and the freezing and thawing process on highwalls contribute to hazardous conditions.
Mine operators are encouraged to conduct frequent mine examinations, provide adequate ventilation of underground areas, apply liberal amounts of rockdust, and frequently check for methane gas buildup.
“Each miner and mine operator must take individual responsibility to eliminate the kinds of hazards that can cause fatal accidents in the workplace. Safety is not the other guy's job – safety begins with you,” MSHA acting assistant secretary David Dye said.