The initiative, which kicked off Monday, is meant to raise awareness of the hazards associated with roof falls and coal outbursts, particularly since more of these events occur during the US summer months than at other times of the year.
“Historically, more roof fall accidents have occurred during the hot, humid summer months as warm air carries moisture into mines [and] the moisture is absorbed into the roof strata and may weaken the roof, making it easier for the mine roof to fall,” MSHA said.
“Many of these accidents occurred in intersections, and research has shown that intersections are eight to 10 times more likely to collapse than an equivalent length of entry or crosscut.”
In fact, the agency logged 29 coal mining fatalities since 1997 related to roof falls and bounces, said acting assistant secretary for mine safety and health Richard Stickler.
“Miners and mine operators are urged to always conduct thorough and frequent checks of the mine roof, and never work or walk under unsupported roof," he said.
MSHA inspectors will present information to miners and operators now through September 30 on roof fall and rib roll danger while providing mines with informational material on safe roof and rib control measures, mobile roof supports and retreat mining practices.
MSHA said the program is particularly important this year due to last August’s Crandall Canyon incident in Utah, where a large coal bounce took the lives of six workers and three rescuers.
Since then, it added, the agency has implemented more steps focused on improving safety at mines under deep cover, including a revised roof control plan procedure.
Mines are now required to complete a detailed and comprehensive checklist of steps needed for plan submission and review and must justify any atypical roof control plans.
MSHA has now also included its Office of Technical Support in atypical plan reviews.
The agency’s inspectors are also planning more frequent visits to retreat mining sections to check each roof control plan’s effectiveness at the particular location as well as mine workers’ knowledge of the plan’s specifics.
Any US operation can visit the MSHA website at any time, it added, for a list of best practices to address ground control for a deep cover operation.