Coal Tattoo


In an MSHA photo, a miner spreads crushed limestone to “rock dust” an underground mine and keep down levels of explosive coal dust.

We had an important story today in our print edition that I wanted to make sure Coal Tattoo readers saw … it was headlined, “Government studies warned that coal-dust limits are outdated.” In short, here’s what it reported:

Federal and state standards for controlling coal dust in underground mines date back nearly a century, and are not adequate to prevent explosions in modern, highly-mechanized operations, according to government research that regulators have never acted upon.

Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published reports in 2006 and 2009 urging regulatory agencies to re-examine the standards, but no such action has been taken.

The story is based largely on two studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a 2006 paper called Coal dust particle size survey of U.S. mines, and a 2009 report called Mitigating Coal Dust Explosions in Modern Underground Coal Mines.

One major thing I should have also pointed out in this story is that the S-MINER Act, which passed the U.S. House, but stalled in the Senate, would have required MSHA to look at these studies and consider rulemaking to update the rock-dusting standards.

This is just one of the many safety reforms that were left out of the 2006 MINER Act and fell by the wayside when the Senate refused to pass the S-MINER Act as a follow-up bill.