12
Review of Mine Disaster Prevention and Control Research

Key Findings and Recommendations for Mine Disaster Prevention and Control Research

  • Historically, mine disaster prevention research within the Mining Program has been of the highest relevance and has had the highest positive impacts on the worker.

  • The Mine Disaster Prevention and Control Research needs to place more focus on areas such as communications, miner self-rescue, and emergency response.

  • A systems approach to mine management and rescue is needed that will continuously provide marker data and response via intelligent system analysis.

  • The Mining Program needs to continue its efforts in disaster prevention and further strengthen its efforts in the area of disaster response.

  • The Mining Program should be more involved in monitoring the work of, and partnering with, international bodies to determine the domestic applications of work done abroad.

STRATEGIC GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

The Mining Program and its predecessors have been the primary researchers for mine disaster prevention for the better part of the twentieth century. Mine disaster prevention and control research within the Mining Program addresses mine disasters, which are defined by the Mining Program as five or more fatalities per incident (www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/statistics/disall.htm). The program goal, as stated, is to “reduce the risk of mine disasters (fires, explosions, and inundations); and minimize the risk to, and enhance the effectiveness of emergency responders,” and will be achieved with a 25 percent reduction in the number of injuries and deaths attributed to mine fires, explosions, inundations, and rescue response activi-



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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 12 Review of Mine Disaster Prevention and Control Research Key Findings and Recommendations for Mine Disaster Prevention and Control Research Historically, mine disaster prevention research within the Mining Program has been of the highest relevance and has had the highest positive impacts on the worker. The Mine Disaster Prevention and Control Research needs to place more focus on areas such as communications, miner self-rescue, and emergency response. A systems approach to mine management and rescue is needed that will continuously provide marker data and response via intelligent system analysis. The Mining Program needs to continue its efforts in disaster prevention and further strengthen its efforts in the area of disaster response. The Mining Program should be more involved in monitoring the work of, and partnering with, international bodies to determine the domestic applications of work done abroad. STRATEGIC GOALS AND OBJECTIVES The Mining Program and its predecessors have been the primary researchers for mine disaster prevention for the better part of the twentieth century. Mine disaster prevention and control research within the Mining Program addresses mine disasters, which are defined by the Mining Program as five or more fatalities per incident (www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/statistics/disall.htm). The program goal, as stated, is to “reduce the risk of mine disasters (fires, explosions, and inundations); and minimize the risk to, and enhance the effectiveness of emergency responders,” and will be achieved with a 25 percent reduction in the number of injuries and deaths attributed to mine fires, explosions, inundations, and rescue response activi-

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ties between 2010 and 2014, compared to the average yearly totals from 1990 to 2001 (NIOSH, 2005a). The Mining Program has also identified four intermediate goals and performance measures in this research area, summarized in Table 12-1. The committee assumes that the goals as stated are considered by the program as intermediate milestones toward its ultimate goal of the complete elimination of mining-related illness and injury. This strategic goal is in alignment with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) agency-wide strategic goals to conduct research to reduce work-related illnesses and injuries. The traditional hazards in the area of mine disasters are well known. Emerging hazards will arise as the production of resources enters into a higher level of geologic complexity. The strategic goal is in alignment with the major current challenges facing the mining industry including fire, explosion, inundation, and ground failure prevention. The overarching goal does not, however, mention enabling the miner’s ability to self-rescue, although it is a subcategory within intermediate goal 4 (Table 12-1). Prevention, response, and self-rescue are all of high importance in the inherently dangerous mining environment. This component of intermediate goal 4 would be more appropriate as a high-level goal. The intermediate goals are somewhat interrelated to achieving the ultimate goal, though they do not currently produce a strongly integrated program plan. According to materials submitted to the committee by the Mining Program, major barriers to accomplishing this strategic goal include the following: An incomplete understanding of the root causes of mine fires, explosions, and inundations; The lack of totally effective engineering controls to prevent, detect, and mitigate mine disasters; and The lack of education and training of the general mining workforce pertaining to methods to predict, prevent, and deal with a mine emergency. Barriers not identified by the Mining Program include (1) the indirect relationship between the work of NIOSH and direct impact in the workplace and (2) an incomplete understanding of weather-related ignition sources. Based on the discussion of the ideal mining program in Chapter 3, the Mining Program needs to continue its efforts in disaster prevention and further strengthen its efforts in the area of disaster response.

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health TABLE 12-1 Intermediate Goals and Performance Measures of Mine Disaster Prevention and Control Research and Committee Comments Intermediate Goala Performance Measurea Committee Comments 1. Reduce the number of reportable (½ hour or longer) fires in U.S. mines by 25% in 5 years through the development of new or improved strategies and technologies in the areas of mine fire prevention, detection, control, and suppression Reduction in the number of fires in the coal and metal or nonmetal mining sectors between 2010 and 2014 by 25% compared to the average yearly totals from 1990 to 2001, as measured by Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) mine fire statistics Has a direct opportunity to impact disasters because fires in underground mining are life threatening if not controlled immediately. The history of fire reduction is positive and long term; some effort should be focused on prevention to address the increasing number of frictional initiations 2. Develop and facilitate the implementation of interventions to address currently identified shortcomings in the coal mining explosion prevention “safety net” Reduction in the number of injuries and deaths attributed to mine explosions between 2010 and 2014 by 25% compared to the average yearly totals from 1990 to 2001, as measured by MSHA accident statistics This safety net contains multiple components of frictional ignition sources, workforce experience, difficult conditions, and technical or operational changes in techniques and technology. The intermediate goal has a clear relation to achieving the strategic goal 3. Reduce or eliminate inundations in U.S. coal mines within 7 years through the development of bulkhead (structures to impound water in mines) design guidelines to be published by 2009. Also, to help reduce the safety hazard to miners from inundations, publish mine design guidelines that would mitigate or prevent inundations by 2009 (1) Improved mine designs and comprehensive bulkhead design, inspection, and monitoring guidelines are developed and adopted by the industry (MSHA) within 5 years and (2) reduction in the number of mine inundations related to bulkhead failures by 50% within 7 years (baseline is 20-year period between 1983 and 2002) Has the ability to impact the goal if research is directed at new and better materials rather than design parameters. MSHA lists a number of approved explosion-proof seals (Lowrie, 2002). What is not in place are material selection and construction practice improvements so that available designs can be implemented readily across mining sectors at a reasonable cost. The design criteria for stoppings that can contain or prevent propagation of an explosion need to be identified

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 4. Assist the mining community to maintain and improve mine escape, rescue, and emergency response capabilities through realistic training exercises and the development and implementation of new or improved training aids and exploration, rescue, and escape technologies (1) Participation of 75 mine rescue teams and 2,500 miners in NIOSH-led training to improve their safety, skills, effectiveness, confidence, and teamwork for rescue and emergency operations; and (2) incorporation of improved NIOSH-developed strategies and technologies for mine rescue and response into practice and deployment activities by at least 25% of U.S. mine rescue teams This intermediate goal is the most relevant in achievement of the strategic goal. It addresses the spectrum of research necessary to enhance the effectiveness of emergency responders and reduce the risk to those individuals. It needs to be strengthened in the area of tools for the miner to self-rescue aSOURCE: NIOSH, 2005a.

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health REVIEW OF INPUTS In recent years the Mining Program has changed from an inwardly focused agency to one that willingly participates in partnerships and seeks input from all facets of industry, labor, and regulatory agencies. Successful partnerships in diesel exhaust emission reductions, personal dust monitoring, and noise controls have been met with enthusiastic industry-wide support, and the results include practical solutions to some problems that have vexed the industry for years. These types of partnerships have not been used by the disaster research prevention group until recent months with the formation of an industry-government partnership with the National Mine Rescue Association. NIOSH, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and the National Mine Rescue Association have formed a partnership to review and revise, as needed, the procedures for mine rescue efforts in the event of an emergency. Recent episodes at the Sago (West Virginia, 2006) and Aracoma Alma (West Virginia, 2006) mines have highlighted some glaring deficiencies in the existing protocols for incident management. The cell phone age has made it necessary for companies and government regulators to adjust communications procedures, as well as update mine rescue response tactics. This effort is well under way, with representatives of each group addressing ways to improve the effectiveness of mine rescue teams and the management of emergencies. Experienced mine rescue veterans comprise the working groups, and the preliminary results have been encouraging. The Mining Program does not appear to take full advantage of disaster prevention research done internationally, though it has been a regular contributor at the Biennial International Conference of Safety in Mines Research Institutes. Monitoring the work of, and partnering with, international bodies would help the Mining Program determine the domestic application of work done abroad. Partnerships and information exchange enable better familiarity with the international community. Examples of international work with potential domestic application include research on refuge chambers (DJF Consulting Limited, 2004), emergency response (Brenkley et al., 1999), and self-escape vehicles (Davis, 2006). The mine disaster prevention research group has responded over time to developing an understanding of the root causes of mine fires and explosions. This has provided input into further research and resulted in intermediate outcomes. Inputs to the mine disaster research group are varied and include stakeholder requests for assistance, stakeholder information-gathering meetings, response to disasters as participants in industry and government workgroups, analysis of fires in the mining industry, and fatality and injury analysis data from MSHA. Stakeholder input in the area of disaster research appears to be moderately adequate in that it relies predominantly on the analysis of fires and of fatality and injury data

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the results of investigations. A more proactive approach should be taken by the Mining Program, including an analysis of MSHA citations where mines fail to meet regulations consistently in specific areas and a review of geologic settings and operational methodologies leading to increases of incidents. Finding a means to receive input from all sectors with a focus on mines, given limited resources, is the key to industry-wide response. REVIEW OF ACTIVITIES Current research projects fall into one of the four intermediate goals listed in Table 12-1. In the goal of reducing reportable fires (intermediate goal 1), work is being conducted in training, fire-resistant materials, early-warning devices, ignition sources (e.g., spontaneous combustion), fire suppression, and decision making. This work is relevant but could be enhanced to include more aggressive prevention of ignition. Work on intermediate goal 2 broadly includes research in the area of coal mine explosion prevention through improved ventilation, methane monitoring, rock dust evaluation, and degasification. Some areas of research in this intermediate goal are more relevant than others. Work in the area of degasification considerably lags common practices in the industry. Current work by the Mining Program in the addition of inert gas to smother mine fires has been practiced by industry since 1949 (Adamus, 2002). Intermediate goal 3, the prevention of mine inundation, is less relevant because the work is related predominantly to design parameters of stoppings and bulkheads, rather than the identification of better materials. Additional focus for research would include cost-effective and efficiently installed materials that can be used in all mining sectors. Reduction in inundations requires the application of technology to identify voids and the potential for inundation in advance, for example, via accurate surveying control and geophysical methods, which already exist and are in use at some mines. Efforts are required to make this technology available at all mines. Intermediate goal 4, research related to emergency response, lacks focus. Prior to 2006, the significant reduction in the number of major mine disasters resulted in the Mining Program shifting its research emphasis to more health-oriented topics. The number of outputs in the area of disaster prevention decreased. The 2006 fatal mine disasters have forced the industry and the Mining Program to consider progress made in implementing new technologies in such areas as through-the-ground communications systems, miner tracking systems, rescue chambers, new technologies for self-contained self-rescuers, and the need for a greater oxygen supply on the belt of miners and in storage caches. All of these areas need directed and sustained effort.

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Table 12-2 lists projects undertaken by the Mining Program in the area of mine disaster prevention research. The Mining Program has been very active in acquiring data and testing proposed solutions in the field in response to stakeholder interests. This has been particularly true in the diesel exhaust, noise control, and personal dust monitor partnerships. REVIEW OF RESEARCH OUTPUTS The Mining Program reports 236 outputs resulting from disaster prevention research generated between 1996 and 2005 (NIOSH, 2005a). Of these, the committee expects that external publications, patents, workshops, and industry briefings to be moderately likely to lead to intermediate outcomes if deployed appropriately. The major outputs resulting from disaster prevention research, in terms of volume, are technical publications, presentations at professional meetings, and proceedings. Audiences are limited at technical symposia. The outputs address some but not all of the high-priority areas; the strengths are in the area of mine fires, and training at the Lake Lynn facility for rescue teams. The most useful output formats are Technology News, workshops, and open industry briefings. These are delivered directly to the interested parties in real time. The readable design of Technology News effectively communicates relevant and timely information concerning breakthroughs in new technologies. A critically important output was recently released to industry. The Coal Dust Explosibility Meter has the potential to prevent the propagation of explosions by enabling real-time evaluation of the explosibility of coal and inert dust mixes (Sapko and Verakis, 2006). Other notable outputs include a computer-based emergency simulation exercise (MERITS), the Emergency Communications Triangle training materials focusing on the content of emergency warning messages, and the evaluation of the lifeline and development of directional cones for self-rescue. NIOSH has issued many criteria documents1 in need of action. These papers have great weight in the regulated community. In cases where the regulatory bodies have not acted on the recommendations, they are incorrectly referred to as fact when differing parties champion their views. If these documents have been published for extended periods of time, they should be withdrawn and/or revised based on new information. Currently, there appears to be no mechanism to accomplish this. 1 Criteria documents are published by NIOSH in partial compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-596), which declares that NIOSH will recommend occupational safety and health standards describing exposure concentrations considered safe for various periods of employment. Criteria documents are published by NIOSH to provide the scientific basis for recommended standards (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/98-126/ [accessed February 15, 2007]).

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health REVIEW OF TRANSFER ACTIVITIES Moving technologies from the research phase into practice throughout the mining industry, and from one sector of the industry to another, is a challenge. Technologies and engineering controls are critically tied to the geologic setting and mining methods employed. Technology transfer of specific mine disaster prevention research has always proven difficult because of the diverse nature of mining. The typical method of knowledge transfer is publication or presentation at technical symposia. The Mining Program presents papers in these forums and supports them in many ways. Attendance at trade shows and professional society meetings, however, has been declining. Although it makes sense to continue presenting in these venues, a variety of output media are necessary to reach broad and diverse industry groups. The audiences for Technology News and the Mining Program web site (www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining) are more widespread. Continuous stakeholder awareness of resources is necessary for goals to be achieved. Technology News provides executive summaries of NIOSH mining safety and health research milestones, making them easy to review, and includes complete contact information for the topic discussed. These are distributed to stakeholders as they are published through mailing and e-mail lists. The impermanent nature of mining employees leads the committee to believe the mailing lists may be outdated. The web site that NIOSH maintains is in need of redesign. It is difficult to find particular information and should include an easier way to access Information Circulars and other publications of interest to the industry. Perhaps a better search engine could improve the ability to find desired information. REVIEW OF INTERMEDIATE OUTCOMES AND CAUSAL IMPACT In analyzing the technical issues raised by recent mine disasters and events with disaster potential, the Mining Program should provide the knowledge and technical expertise to specify the most sensible way to improve mine safety. U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) and Mining Program work in this area has been incorporated in other industries (e.g., in grain elevators). Intermediate outcomes resulting from recent research include the following: Enhancement of the mining industry’s awareness of the dangers of underground mine fires; Improvement of the effectiveness of rescue teams; MSHA’s acceptance of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E-162 Radiant Panel Test as a major criterion in the selection and use of

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health TABLE 12-2 Mine Disaster Prevention Projects and Committee Assessment of Relevance and Impact Project Titlea Intermediate Goal Descriptiona Relevance Impact 1. Closed-Circuit Escape Respirator Standard 4 Develop testing standards for the respirator and self-contained self rescuer (SCSR) Adequate Better understanding of the functioning of the SCSR is likely to lead to some improvement 2. Coal Mine Face Methane Control and Monitoring 2 Eliminate methane ignitions at working face. Technology transfer to others (e.g., MSHA) Adequate Without a focus on elimination of methane, impact will be moderate 3. Design Guidelines for Mine Ventilation Stoppings 3 Develop guidelines for ventilation stoppings that withstand in-service load conditions Somewhat relevant, but many guidelines already exist Impact not likely if the focus is not on materials and installation that can be applied readily throughout the industry 4. Fire Hazard Reduction in the Metal and Nonmetal Mining Industry 1 Fire-resistant materials, early warning, training, and education High Results should lead to further improvements in fire reduction 5. Investigation of Methane Control Issues in Underground Mines 2 Investigate and quantify mine design and geotechnical factors leading to methane emission and subsequent control Loosely connected. There is a need for advancing ventilation research and combining it with methane drainage techniques in a systematic control of methane Limited impact anticipated because research is lagging industry practice 6. Lake Lynn Laboratory 1, 2, 3, 4 Provide a modern laboratory for health and safety research High Major impact but needs to target investigations pertinent to all stakeholders

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 7. Long-Term Field Evaluation (LTFE) 4 Monitor reliability of SCSR Adequate surveillance work Minimal impact expected—new SCSR needed 8. Mine Rescue and Response 4 Rescue team training High Major impact expected 9. Prevention and Mitigation of Gas or Dust Explosions 2 Explosion propagation, dust meter High—research is needed in natural causes of explosions Future improvement likely with the release of the dust meter 10. Prevention and Mitigation of Mine Inundations 3 Bulkhead design Adequate, but need practical application of the designs that already exist. No mine design work in progress Limited impact expected 11. Reducing Fire Hazards in U.S. Coal Mines 1 Spontaneous combustion High Impact likely if focus is on prevention 12. Remote Methods for Addressing Coal Mine Fires 1 Suppression of fires Adequate Major impact on fighting fires once started 13. SCSR Training Modules 4 Care and maintenance High Limited by functionality of existing SCSR designs 14. Smoke Management and Fire Modeling for Underground Mines 1,4 Fire simulator for making ventilation decisions Adequate Impact likely if all mines have up-to-date model at time of an event that could lead to a disaster and for rescue decision making. This is not currently required by regulation aSOURCE: NIOSH, 2005a.

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health these materials based on NIOSH research on flammability of noise control materials in operator cabs; Incorporation of research findings into the 2004 revised National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) mining fire protection standards (NFPA 120 standard on underground coal and NFPA 122 standard on metal and nonmetal); American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards governing the power thresholds for laser-based optical and telecommunications equipment (fiber-optic networks) as a direct result of the Mining Program’s research on ignition of flammable atmospheres by such lasers; Work resulting in the permissible use of mobile equipment in evacuation during main fan outages in Pennsylvania; An emergency ruling by Congress (the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, P.L. 109-236) requiring use of the NIOSH-evaluated Directional Lifelines for Mine Evacuations; and Implementation of automatic fire suppression systems on conveyor belt drives and underground diesel storage areas. Additional intermediate outcomes that are better focused on achieving the end outcome of 25 percent fewer fatalities and injuries would be the implementation by the industry of a new SCSR and communications technology. REVIEW OF END OUTCOMES The stated performance measure for this strategic goal is the reduction of the number of injuries and deaths attributed to mine fires, explosions, inundations, and rescue and response activities by 25 percent between 2010 and 2014, compared to the average yearly total from 1990 to 2001 (compiled from MSHA accident statistics). There were 21 fatalities attributed to two accidents2 from 1990 to 2001.3 Long-term trends in data collected on incidents have shown continuous improvement in the frequency and severity of mine disasters, with the incidence of injury and the number of fatalities setting record lows in 2005. However, recent events and the dramatic upsurge of fatal accidents need to be reviewed and the causes determined. The 17 fatalities resulting from two disasters (Sago Mine, Upshur County, West Virginia, 12 fatalities, January 2, 2006; Darby Mine, Darby, Kentucky, 5 fatalities, May 20, 2006) during the first half of 2006 are troubling. There is an indirect relationship between the work of the Mining Program and 2 Southmountain Coal Mine No. 3 (Norton, Virginia) experienced an explosion that killed eight people on December 17, 1992. The Jim Water Resources, Inc. No. 5 coal mine (Brookwood, Alabama) experienced an explosion that killed 13 people on September 23, 2001. 3 http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/statistics/disall.htm.

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health impact in the workplace. The Mining Program cannot directly attribute any lives saved to the research it performs. It can attribute an increased body of knowledge to this work. The required use of lifelines during emergencies is expected to contribute to saving lives given appropriate enforcement. The Dust Explosibility Meter should influence the state of rock dusting and could be a factor in limiting the propagation of an explosion, but a direct measure of lives saved is not possible. ASSESSMENT OF RELEVANCE AND IMPACT The committee realizes that mine disaster prevention is a complex area requiring expertise in several fields such as (1) mining engineering; (2) fires and fire control engineering; (3) methane, coal, pyrite, and other explosives—their initiation, progression, and control; and (4) the impact of all of these on normal mine operations, disaster response and management, and so forth. A major aspect of preventing an incident from growing into a disaster involves human behavior, training, and response effectiveness. Research expertise and facilities are not easily developed. Specialized staffing and funding for this area require constant attention. Historically, mine disaster prevention research within the Mining Program has been of the highest relevance and has had the highest positive impacts on the worker. Currently, only some of the highest-priority areas in mining disaster prevention are addressed through Mining Program research. Some research has led to changes in MSHA rules and regulations that directly impact the workplace, but research in areas such as communications, miner self-rescue, and emergency response is not adequate. The committee judges mining disaster prevention research to be focused on lesser priorities. Current research may result in new knowledge, but only limited application of that knowledge is expected. PROGRESS IN TARGETING NEW RESEARCH The Quecreek mine inundation incident and the disasters at Sago and Alma Mine No. 1 revealed weaknesses in a number of disaster prevention and response areas. Several of these can be addressed by a greater and more rigorous application of existing advances in disaster prevention and emergency response practices, although research is needed on several fronts including disaster prevention, communications, escape and survival systems, and response equipment, rescue teams, in situ assessment of geologic conditions, monitoring of atmospheres behind seals, and evaluation of mining methods. In all of these areas, there may be some potential for transfer of technology and practices from the international community (e.g., Australia, Poland, South Africa, Canada). However, because of differences in

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health laws, regulations, and cultural or other practices, direct application may not be feasible. Communication has been recognized as a major source of problems in need of great attention to provide effective disaster response and escape. The subject of emergency communications has been of particular concern for two committees of the National Research Council (NRC) that dealt with mine rescue and survival issues (NAE, 1970; NRC, 1981). More recently, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Commission on Abandoned Mine Voids and Mine Safety—the Quecreek Commission—addressed the issue of emergency communications (Commission on Abandoned Mine Voids and Mine Safety, 2002). The 1981 NRC report pointed out a number of issues and potential approaches: underground-to-surface communications, communication between rescue teams and trapped miners, and permanently installed seismic systems that could be used on a day-to-day basis. According to the Quecreek Commission, there was no lack of basic technical knowledge, but the availability of practical engineering designs (which may have to be site specific) was a major limitation. An NRC report on evolutionary and revolutionary techniques for mining (NRC, 2002) also stressed the need for the development of a communications system to each miner based on real-time data and analysis. While the report recognized major developments in monitoring systems for the atmosphere, equipment, and pager systems, it recommended the integration of these systems for specific and immediate safety information and instructions to individual miners. It is generally acknowledged that the most effective emergency communications system is one that is used for routine communication. Research by the Mining Program into the development of practical designs of effective communications systems that would be useful for routine communications but withstand the damaging effects of mine disasters is recommended. Although long-term trends have shown continuous reduction in the frequency and severity of mine disasters, recent events and the dramatic upsurge of fatal accidents in 2006 should be reviewed, and reasons for the upsurge determined. The Mining Program needs to examine the causes of the incidents and the reasons for the inadequate escape and rescue responses.

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Signature Accomplishment: Disaster Prevention Research Coal mine operators are required to maintain an incombustible content of at least 65 percent in the entries and 80 percent in the returns (30 CFR 75.403). The U.S. Bureau of Mines and Mining Program research efforts have focused for some time on coal dust explosibility and rendering the dust inert through the application of incombustible material. The recent release of the hand-held Dust Explosibility Meter developed by NIOSH in collaboration with MSHA is a signature accomplishment of the NIOSH Mining Program (Sapko and Verakis, 2006). The meter directly assesses the effectiveness of rock dusting, avoiding a two-week wait for laboratory analysis. Although it will not replace in-depth laboratory analysis, it will provide a more immediate determination of the adequacy of rock dusting. If the prototype is made available commercially and utilized throughout the coal mining industry, safety should be improved.