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NIOSH details basics of self-escape plans for underground coal miners


Photo: NIOSH

Washington — A new NIOSH document is intended to help underground coal miners be prepared for emergency escape. 

Intended for mine operators, managers, safety professionals, mine workers and government agencies, the document offers guidance on nine core competency areas and related training topics:

  • Everyday preparedness
  • Situational awareness of mine layout
  • Emergency diagnosis and response
  • Wayfinding
  • Locating, donning and maintaining self-contained self-rescuers
  • Using self-contained self-rescuers
  • Communication
  • Refuge alternatives
  • Firefighting

The agency cites research showing that more than 80% of the 20-plus miners who died in three separate mine emergencies in 2006 survived the initial incident but died while attempting to escape. Ensuing investigations attributed “deficiencies in miners’ mastery of numerous critical self-escape” knowledge, skills and abilities to the fatalities while linking the deficiencies to “inadequate self-escape training.”

The miners’ deaths led to the Mine Improvement and New Emergency (MINER) Act of 2006. Although the act “strengthened existing self-escape training regulations” and requires an assessment of miners’ self-escape competencies, it doesn’t include guidance “on how to teach or evaluate” this knowledge, NIOSH says in the document.

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