MSHA issues guidance on ventilation systems

August 19, 2010

Prompted by "troubling testimony" concerning the April explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine-South in West Virginia, the Mine Safety and Health Administration on Aug. 16 released four program information bulletins on ventilation systems in underground coal mines.

The bulletins address inadequate ventilation, intentional changes to ventilation systems, working face controls and methane monitors.

According to an MSHA press release, testimony from victims' family members during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing in May raised doubts about whether the Upper Big Branch mine had followed ventilation standards.

Adequate ventilation helps ensure flammable, explosive, noxious and harmful gases, dusts, smoke and fumes are diluted and carried away. Otherwise, methane and dust can accumulate, potentially causing a fire. Inhaling harmful levels of dust also can lead to black lung disease, the release said.