Feds propose rule to keep miners from getting crushed

Feds propose rule to keep miners from getting crushed
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The Department of Labor is considering a new rule to prevent miners from getting crushed and pinned underground by equipment used to haul coal.

The agency’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will publish a rule in the Federal Register on Wednesday that will call for shuttle cars, ram cars and scoops to have proximity detection systems.

Proximity detection is a technology that uses electronic sensors to detect motion and the distance between a miner and a machine. The systems would provide audible and visual warnings and automatically stop the machine from moving before a miner gets injured.

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Between 1984 and 2014, MSHA said, pinning, crushing and striking accidents killed 42 miners and injured 179 others. From 2010-2014 these accidents killed nine miners. Of the 41 accidents during that time, 23 involved coal-hauling machines and 18 involved scoops.

MSHA said proximity detection systems could have prevented all of these deaths and injuries.

“We know this technology works as a number of mine operators have already installed proximity detection systems on coal hauling machines and scoops,” Kevin Stricklin, MSHA’s administrator for coal mine safety and health, said in a news release. “We hope to learn from their experiences during the public comment period.”

The agency estimates that, as of June, 155 of the approximately 2,116 underground coal hauling machines and scoops were equipped with proximity detection systems.

Mine operators will have eight months to comply once the rules take effect if their equipment with existing proximity detection systems can be modified underground. Those with equipment that cannot be modified underground will have 36 months to comply with the rules.

The public has until Dec. 1 to comment on the proposal.