MSHA Proximity Detection Rule Issued

The agency has been concerned about struck-by incidents in mines for several years.

MSHA is publishing a proposed rule that would require proximity detection systems on underground coal hauling systems used on a mining section. Machines such as shuttle cars, ram cars, and scoops would have to be equipped with technology that prevents coal miners from becoming struck, pinned, or crushed. MSHA has been calling for the use of such technology for several years, but its release about the rule says that, as of June 2015, only 155 of the approximately 2,116 underground coal hauling machines and scoops were equipped with proximity detection systems.

The technology uses electronic sensors to detect motion and the distance between a miner and a machine, alerting operator and miner through audible and visual warnings and automatically stopping the machine's movement before miners are injured.

According to the agency, between 1984 and 2014, 42 miners died and 179 were hurt in pinning, crushing, and struck-by incidents, and during 2010-2014, there were nine miner fatalities in 41 cases -- 23 involved coal hauling machines and 18 involved scoops.

"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," said Assistant Secretary Joe Main. "It is an important component of the department's 'Plan, Prevent and Protect' strategy for safeguarding all workers."

"We know this technology works as a number of mine operators have already installed proximity detection systems on coal hauling machines and scoops," said Kevin Stricklin, MSHA's administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health. "We hope to learn from their experiences during the public comment period."

In January 2015, MSHA published a final rule requiring the installation of proximity detection systems on continuous mining machines used in underground coal mines. In that case, many continuous mining machines are already equipped with the technology, according to MSHA.

Compliance is phased in under the new proposed rule: Eight months after the rule goes into effect, coal hauling machines and scoops manufactured after the effective date of the rule and coal-hauling machines and scoops equipped with an existing proximity detection system that can be modified underground must be in compliance. Three years after the rule goes into effect, coal hauling machines and scoops equipped with an existing proximity detection system that cannot be modified underground or needs to be replaced with a new proximity detection system, and coal hauling machines and scoops manufactured on or before the effective date of the rule and not equipped with a proximity detection system, must be in compliance.

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