Federal agencies Mining, oil and gas

MSHA issues final rule on proximity detection systems


Photo: TomasSereda/iStock/Thinkstock

Arlington, VA – Underground coal mine operators will be required to use proximity detection systems on continuous mining machines, under a new final rule issued by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The systems include electronic sensors that can send warning signals and stop machines before they come into contact with miners, MSHA said. The rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 15 and become effective 60 days later, but it includes a phase-in process ranging from eight to 36 months.

MSHA said proximity detection systems must adhere to certain guidelines, including:

  • Prompting moving or repositioning continuous mining machines to stop before coming into contact with a miner
  • Delivering audible and visual warnings on miner-wearable components, as well as visual warnings on the machine before it halts
  • Providing visual signals on the machine that show when machine-mounted components are functioning properly
  • Preventing movement of the machine if any machine-mounted component is not functioning properly, with the exception of limited movement for repairs
  • Preventing electrical interference that affects performance of other electrical systems
  • Having sensors installed and maintained in proper condition by a trained employee

“Simply put, the proximity detection final rule will save lives and has the potential to dramatically improve the safety of mining operations,” MSHA administrator Joseph A. Main said in a press release.