Coal Tattoo

A government photo shows the SCSRs that Sago miners tried to use to survive after the January 2006 explosion.

Six years ago, here’s how coal miner Randal McCloy described what he and his coworkers — all of whom died — went through trying to get their CSE Corp. SR-100 model self-contained self rescuers to work:

I fought with it for I don’t know how long, trying to mess with that valve, blow air through it, or anything I could do, but nothing would work.

After repeatedly dismissing such concerns, two federal agencies announced today a timeline for getting 70,000 of these particular SCSRs out of the nation’s coal mines.  In a just-issued press release, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said:

… Mine operators must immediately begin phasing out the use of SR-100 self-contained self-rescuers manufactured by Pittsburgh, Pa.-based CSE Corp. The announcement, made in conjunction with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, was prompted by the April 13 NIOSH report of a joint NIOSH-MSHA investigation that determined the units do not conform to safety requirements. Self-contained self-rescuers are portable devices that, in the event of an emergency, can provide underground miners with up to 60 minutes of breathable air.

By April 26, 2013, mine operators are required to replace with any other approved one-hour SCSR those SR-100s that are worn or carried by miners and stored on mantrips.  The entire phase-out of all SR-100 units must be completed by Dec. 31, 2013.

MSHA chief Joe Main said:

Due to the large number of CSE SR-100s in underground coal mines, multiple SCSRs available to miners, the low probability of failure and the shortage of immediately available replacements, MSHA and NIOSH have determined that an orderly phase-out will better protect the safety of miners than immediate withdrawal of the devices.

Here’s a link to NIOSH’s official “user notice” about this action, and a separate MSHA bulletin on the matter.