New MSHA alert warns of winter hazards

December 13, 2016

Arlington, VA – The Mine Safety and Health Administration has released its annual safety alert to call attention to the unique hazards the mining industry faces during the winter months.

This year’s campaign, “Make Safety A Hole in One,” focuses on preventing explosions in coal mines. It also emphasizes mine examinations, correct ventilation and rock dusting, and addresses hazards specific to surface facilities and preparation plants.

The risk of explosion in winter increases because methane moves more easily throughout a mine’s atmosphere as a result of a drop in barometric pressure during cold weather, MSHA warns. Coal dust can remain in the atmosphere during dry conditions underground, potentially contributing to an explosion.

Other hazards include slippery walkways, reduced visibility, and freezing and thawing highwalls.

From December through March, specialists will travel to mines to help bring awareness to the issue. Mine safety personnel also will share resources about best practices.

“The risk of underground coal mine explosions increases every winter, as do hazards associated with ice and snow that collect at surface facilities and preparation plants,” MSHA administrator Joseph A. Main said in a Nov. 10 press release. “While mine safety has improved vastly over time, these types of explosions have occurred far too often. We must remain vigilant about the conditions that can set them off.”