MSHA launches winter hazard program

AS THE colder weather begins to arrive across much of the US, federal regulators are spotlighting the dangers that often come from this time of the year with its annual Winter Alert campaign.

Donna Schmidt

According to statistics, more deadly mine explosions historically occur between October and March than any other time of the year.

The US Mine Safety and Health Administration offers remedies for the four most critical scenarios.

“Colder air brings low barometric pressures and low humidity to the mine environment,” officials said.

“Coupled with seasonal drying of surfaces on the mine roofs, ribs and bottom, this fosters conditions conducive to propagating an explosion.

“Colder weather also creates an environment for other potential hazards, such as icy walkways and haulage roads, limited visibility, and freezing and thawing of highwalls, which causes instability.”

As a result of this increased time of danger, MSHA inspectors will focus on thorough mine examinations, ventilation and generous rock dusting during regular visits with mine operators.

“Operators of underground coal mines need to be fully aware of the precautions they can take to avoid tragic accidents at their mine sites, and these include thorough examinations, sufficient ventilation, adequate rock dusting and maintaining escape routes,” assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.

“We can significantly reduce the probability of tragic mining accidents during winter months when all mine operators heed these simple – but important – precautions.”

Mines can visit the MSHA website for additional resources and information on the Winter Alert 2013 initiative.