US safey under the microscope

An independent commission is reviewing how new technologies, procedures and training can further enhance safety in the underground coal mines of the USA. National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Kraig R. Naasz announced the formation of the Mine Safety Technology and Training Commission and the selection of Dr. R. Larry Grayson, chairman and professor of mining engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla, to chair the commission. NMA Vice President of Safety and Health Bruce Watzman detailed the commission’s purpose in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies at an oversight hearing on mine safety in the aftermath of the Sago Mine tragedy.

"I welcome the opportunity to lead an independent and expert review of how new technologies, procedures and training can be adapted to mining conditions in an effort to further improve the industry’s safety performance and rescue capabilities," said Grayson. "Given the expertise of those on whom I plan to call to join me in this important endeavor, I’m confident in our ability to recommend practical ways of utilizing a combination of technology, procedures and training to further enhance mine safety."

In addition to Dr. Grayson, the commission will be comprised of nine experts drawn from academia, public agencies, consultancies and the mining industry, and will include mine workers, technology specialists, public safety officials and company experts. It will examine current and potential safety procedures, communications technologies, safety training regimes and mine rescue technology and techniques specific to underground coal mines. The commission also is expected to identify any policy changes needed to expedite the transfer of technology to operational use in the mining industry.

"While the coal industry is proud of its efforts over the past 15 years to reduce injuries by 68% and mining fatalities by 67%, the recent tragedies have further galvanized our industry’s ongoing interest in identifying innovative ways to better ensure the health and safety of underground coal miners," said Naasz. "As such, the coal industry has pledged its full cooperation in this process and is committed to providing Dr. Grayson and the commission with the resources they need to succeed."

The commission is expected to announce publicly its preliminary recommendations by July 1 and conclude its work with the issuance of final recommendations by the end of the year.