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New MSHA guidelines for mine communications

New MSHA guidelines for mine communications

MSHA has drafted a guidance document for MINER Act compliant communications and tracking systems, with assistance from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The document is expected to be published by the end of 2008. MSHA is also assisting NIOSH with the administration of a contract for developing a template and the accompanying guidance document which will provide assistance to mine operators in specifying a suitable communications and tracking system in their MINER Act required emergency response plan.

Under the 2006 MINER Act issued by MSHA, all US mine operators are required to submit an emergency response plan for the secretary’s approval at least every six months, detailing the provisions made in the event of an accident at the mine. The new policy will guide mine operators in implementing electronic tracking systems and other alternatives to fully wireless post-accident two-way communication between underground and surface personnel. Fully wireless technology has been deemed insufficiently developed for post- accident use and therefore each operator must make alternative arrangements for ‘un-tethered’ communications.

In response to the Sago Mine disaster on January 2, 2006, MSHA has received numerous proposals from manufacturers and distributors of emergency communication and tracking systems. These are currently being processed by the Technical Support Directorate which is reviewing the products and proposals, and assisting interested manufacturers in obtaining MSHA approval. MSHA has also been working closely with NIOSH Communication and Tracking Partnership to assist manufacturers in arranging field tests of their systems. Manufacturers need to obtain the appropriate MSHA approvals for the systems to be used in the gassy areas of underground mines.
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