Joseph A. Main is assistant U.S. secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

Underground Investigation of Upper Big Branch Mine Begins

MSHA said a month of exploration by mine rescue teams to confirm the mine is safe for investigators is completed. This new phase involves teams with expertise in mapping, dust surveys, electrical, photography, flames and forces, geology, and evidence gathering.

Saying a "critical component of this investigation has now begun," Joe Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, announced that the underground investigation of the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia will commence this week. "Along with the already extensive witness interviews that have been conducted, the physical examination of the mine hopefully will provide answers to the cause of a tragic explosion that has affected so many lives," he added.

An April 5 explosion inside the mine killed 29 miners. Mine rescue teams for the past month have explored the coal mine to confirm it's safe for investigators; the underground investigation involves teams with expertise in mapping, dust surveys, electrical, photography, flames and forces, geology, and evidence gathering. MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety & Training are participating and have set rules for preservation of evidence to be followed by the teams, according to MSHA. Team members will stick together while in the mine and may take notes. Each team will create one map for each area of the mine, and the maps will be distributed to each party at the end of each shift.

Massey Energy's website providing updates on the investigation is here. The company maintains MSHA controlled the ventilation plan Massey was allowed to use inside the mine, and Massey sued the agency in a Washington, D.C., federal court on June 23 to challenge MSHA's authority to dictate the design of ventilation systems and limit use of scrubbers in underground mines.

Product Showcase

  • Matrix's OmniPro Vision AI Collision Avoidance System

    OmniPro Vision AI is a state-of-the-art collision avoidance system that features NIOSH award-winning Visual Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. This highly accurate, powerful system identifies and alerts on pedestrians, vehicles and specified objects, ensuring safer facilities, mining operations and industrial sites. With its web-based cloud application, OmniPro Vision AI also logs and analyzes a wide range of data related to zone breach notifications. Operating without needing personal wearable devices or tags, OmniPro has visual and audible zone breach alerts for both operators and pedestrians. 3

  • The MGC Simple Plus

    The MGC Simple Plus is a simple-to-use, portable multi gas detector that runs continuously for three years without being recharged or routinely calibrated after its initial charge and calibration during manufacturing. The detector reliably tests a worksite’s atmosphere for hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, oxygen and combustible gases (LEL). Its durability enables the detector to withstand the harshest treatment and environments, hence earning it an IP 68 rating. The MGC Simple Plus is also compatible with a variety of accessories, such as the GCT External Pump. Visit for more information. 3

  • Kestrel 5400 Heat Stress Tracker WBGT Monitoring for Workplace Safety

    Ensure safety with the Kestrel® 5400 Heat Stress Tracker, the go-to choice for safety professionals and endorsed by the Heat Safety & Performance Coalition. This robust, waterless WBGT meter is ideal for both indoor and outdoor environments, offering advanced monitoring and data logging essential for OSHA compliance. It features pre-programmed ACGIH guidelines and alert settings to quickly signal critical conditions. Integrated with the cloud-based Ambient Weather Network, the 5400 allows managers to view, track, and log job site conditions remotely, ensuring constant awareness of potential hazards. Its capability for real-time mobile alerts and remote data access promotes proactive safety management and workplace protection, solidifying its role as a crucial tool in industrial hygiene. 3