Coal Tattoo

Still no proximity detection rules from MSHA

That’s the photo that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration distributed today, as part of its “fatalgram” about the Nov. 30 death of 27-year-old coal-mine electrician Steven O’Dell in another senseless mobile equipment accident in one of our nation’s underground coal mines.

The MSHA fatalgram includes a list of recommendations for ways to avoid these sorts of fatalities, including:

Install proximity detection systems on all mobile face equipment.

MSHA has sent these kinds of warnings out before, including one earlier this year that reported:

Since January 1, 2010, eighty five miners have been injured by mobile equipment including eight miners who were killed in accidents involving mobile face equipment. Of the total number of miners injured, twenty six were permanently partially or totally disabled from accidents involving mobile equipment and fifty one had lost time accidents involving continuous miners, shuttle cars, ramcars, mantrips and scoops.

Agency officials in that warning had also recommended:

Install and maintain electronic proximity detection devices.

And, the agency refers us to its special webpage about these devices, where we learn:

Proximity detection / collision warning is a technology that can be installed on mining machinery to detect the presence of personnel or machinery within a certain distance of a machine. These systems can be programmed to send warning signals and stop machine movement when the programmed areas are breached. We use the term “proximity detection” to refer to underground mining applications which often are designed to inhibit machine movement. We use the term “collision warning” to refer to surface machinery applications that typically provide warning signals only. MSHA has assisted the industry in the development of this technology on a variety of machinery, both underground and surface.

The problem here, of course, is that the Obama administration’s Labor Department, MSHA and the White House (or some combination of officials at all three places) continue to sit on two different rules (see here and here) that would require coal operators to install life-saving proximity devices in underground mines.