Roof fall accidents remain a leading cause of US coal mining injuries

ALTHOUGH improvements in roof-control technology have led to decreases in accidents related to roof-and-rib falls, such accidents are still a leading cause of injuries in underground coal mines, according to the US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Lou Caruana

During 2013, 265 miners were injured in roof-and-rib falls, down from 377 in 2012. Nearly half of the accidents occurred during the four-month period from June to September, according to mine safety and health assistant secretary Joe Main.

“Even though there was a welcome reduction in the overall number of roof control injuries, too many coal miners are still being hurt on the job in these kinds of accidents,” he said.

Every year, MSHA undertakes a preventive roof-rib outreach program to increase awareness among miners and mine operators of the hazards of roof-and-rib falls.

The 2014 campaign, which runs in September, will focus on conditions specific to the summer months. For example, clay veins and other moisture-sensitive materials in rock formations in the mine roof are prone to being affected by air and humidity and require additional control measures to prevent mine roof-and-rib failures.

The agency has developed informational posters, hard hat stickers and lists of best practices, which will be distributed to miners and mine operators during normal inspections. The information also will be used by MSHA inspectors during safety talks with operators and groups of working miners.

In addition, MSHA inspectors distribute accident prevention alert warnings which list best practice to prevent roof-and-rib accidents specifically related to retreat mining.