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 MSHA's recent push for the increased use of proximity detection systems should help reduce mine accidents. Photo Credit: WVrecord.com

MSHA’s recent push for the increased use of proximity detection systems should help reduce mine accidents. Photo Credit: WVrecord.com

Mine workers face challenging, and often dangerous, working conditions every day. In surface mines, large equipment with limited visibility make it difficult to see smaller vehicles and pedestrians, increasing the likelihood of collision or injury. In the confined spaces of underground mines, where proximity is a challenge, limited visibility due to dust, poor lighting, and large machinery also poses potential risks. In fact, according to the CDC’s Office of Mine Safety and Health Research, more than 40% of the most serious mining injuries (those involving fatalities or permanent disabilities) between 2000 and 2007 were found to be a result of collisions, pinning, crushing, and striking hazards. In an effort to reduce the number and frequency of mining accidents, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed new rules requiring Proximity Detection Systems to be installed on continuous mining machines.

When a miner steps into the yellow "Caution Zone," a warning alarm alerts the mine operator. If a miner crosses into the "Shutdown Zone," the machine shuts down immediately. Photo Credit: magazine.cim.org
When a miner steps into the yellow “Caution Zone,” a warning alarm alerts the mine operator. If a miner crosses into the “Shutdown Zone,” the machine shuts down immediately. Photo Credit: magazine.cim.org

Proximity Detection Systems provide a new, potentially life-saving technology designed to prevent crushing, pinning, and collision accidents. The innovative systems use a number of Proximity Warning tools, including radar, sonar, GPS, and cameras, to alert mine operators when someone or something is in the path of a mining machine, shutting down whatever motion that machine is currently set to perform. Proximity Detection Systems are being installed on mining equipment all over the globe at an increasing rate, and have proven valuable in both surface mines and underground mines. While MSHA has approved a number of commercially-available systems, their approval is based more on the systems’ lack of risk for spark or thermal ignition than they are system performance.

This diagram depicts safe zones and potentially hazardous ones, based on the miner's position relative to that of the equipment. Photo Credit: cdc.gov
This diagram depicts safe zones and potentially hazardous ones, based on the miner’s position relative to that of the equipment. Photo Credit: cdc.gov

Mining has long been considered one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. In 1907, regarded as the “deadliest year in US coal mining history”, an estimated 3,242 American miners were killed in mining accidents. And while safety standards, laws, and innovative equipment have helped to drastically reduce the frequency and severity of mining accidents, they unfortunately do still occur.
According to the Office of Mine Safety and Health Research:

  • 3-4 people are still killed every year by collisions and driving over unseen edges at surface mines.
  • Since 1984, 33 miners have been killed from being struck or pinned by a continuous mining machine
    • A proximity detection system disabling the mining machines could have helped avoid 80% of these fatalities
  • MSHA estimates that proximity detection technology can prevent as much as 20% of all mining-related deaths

HJ3 strives to provide the strongest carbon fiber on the market, but the reason that we do so is to create a safer environment for as many people as we can. As technology continues to advance, in safety equipment and reliable structural repair systems, the hopes of eliminating mining accidents come closer and closer to being reality.

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