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MSHA proposes to expand coal mine ‘proximity detection’ mandate

By Ken Ward Jr.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Federal regulators said this morning that they want to expand the requirement for coal-mine operators to install life-saving “proximity detection” devices on certain underground mining equipment with a new rule that’s been in the works for years.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is proposing that haulage machinery — such as shuttle cars, ram cars and scoops — would have to be equipped with this technology within three years.

Proximity detection systems can sense when workers get too close to mining equipment and shut down that equipment to avoid crushing and pinning injuries and deaths. The systems are mounted on mining machines and shut down equipment or send warning signals when miners wearing special devices get too close.

“This proposed proximity detection system rule would better protect miners from being crushed or pinned in the confined underground mine spaces where large equipment is constantly in motion,” MSHA chief Joe Main said in a prepared statement.

Between 1984 and 2014, pinning, crushing and striking accidents killed 42 miners and injured 179 others nationwide. In the most recent five-year period from 2010 to 2014, such accidents killed nine miners in 41 cases — 23 involved coal hauling machines and 18 involved scoops, MSHA said.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at [email protected], 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

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