Mining Winter-Related Hazards

Arlington, VA — The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently released its annual safety alert spotlighting hazards unique to the mining industry during winter.

The risk of explosion increases during cold weather because lower barometric pressure helps methane move more easily throughout the mine atmosphere, MSHA states. In addition, dry air conditions underground can keep coal dust in the atmosphere, potentially contributing to an explosion.

MSHA stresses mine examinations as “the first line of defense” underground.

Procedures should include:

  • Checking for methane;
  • Knowing the ventilation plan and maintaining controls; and
  • Repeatedly applying rock dust to prevent explosions.

Other winter-related hazards include limited visibility, slippery walkways, and freezing and thawing highwalls.

MSHA recommends:

  • Checking highwalls and benches for stability;
  • Checking vehicles for exhaust leaks and consider limiting engine idle time; and
  • Removing snow and ice from roadways and using sand to improve traction.

Meantime, the US Senate has confirmed David Zatezalo as the new assistant secretary of labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, after the Senate confirmed him Nov. 15 in a 52-46 vote.

Zatezalo spent more than 40 years in the mining industry and most recently was chairman of Lexington, KY-based Rhino Resources GP LLC, retiring in 2014. Zatezalo takes over at a time when coal mining fatalities have reached their highest mark (14) since 2014.