US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has released the final rule for underground coal mines to reduce potential accidents due to pinning, crushing, or striking incidents.
As per the new guidance, underground coal mining operators must install proximity detection systems on place-changing continuous mining machines.
The detection system will use electronic sensors to help both mining machines and miners detect motion or the location of one object relative to another, to prevent accidents.
The sensors can be programmed so that they form a perimeter around a continuous mining machine and a receiver worn by the machine operator interacts with the sensors installed at the machine's corners.
Mine operators will be required to meet certain operational standards, including installing warning systems so that machines in operation give out both audible and visual signals to alert mine workers, causing them to stop before making contact with a person.
According to MSHA, 40 mining deaths that occurred across the nation in 2014 were due to powered hauling and mining machinery, including ten at coal mines.
Under the new federal rule, mine operators are required to retrofit continuous mining machines with the detectors and all newly built continuous miners must have the equipment.
The mining industry and the United Mine Workers of America are backing the regulation and gave their approval for the upgrade during public input sessions in recent years.
This will come into effect from 16 March 2015 and will be implemented over eight to 36 months. MSHA reported that nearly half of the 863 continuous mining machines in operation are already equipped with proximity detection systems.
Image: Electronic sensors will help machines and miners detect the motion of an object. Photo: courtesy of Mine Safety and Health Administration.