Safety rules on emergency mine evacuation clarified in the USA

On December 8, 2006, America’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) published a final rule on Emergency Mine Evacuation which replaces the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) published on March 9, 2006. JacksonKelly LLC explains that the “Final Rule was effective upon its publication and makes permanent the underground coal mine requirements of the ETS with some minor changes. The accident reporting requirements that apply to all mines are finalized with more significant modifications.

“The Final Rule retains the language that accidents shall be reported at once without delay and within 15 minutes. This requirement is applicable to the 12 types of immediately reportable accidents as defined in 30 C.F.R. § 50.2 (h)(1) through (12). However, the Final Rule amends the definitions of some types of accidents. Specifically, 30 C.F.R. § 50.2(h)(3) relating to entrapment now requires that an entrapment lasting more than 30 minutes or which has reasonable potential to cause death be reported. The Final Rule also amends subsection § 50.2(h)(6) to now require that unplanned fires in underground mines not extinguished within 10 minutes (as opposed to 30 minutes) be reported within 15 minutes. The immediate accident reporting requirement for surface mine fires that burn for more than 30 minutes of discovery is unchanged in the Final Rule. The regulatory provisions should be read in conjunction with the requirements of Section 5 of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER Act). Section 5 requires operators to report the “death of an individual at the mine or the injury or entrapment of an individual at the mine which has reasonable potential to cause death within 15 minutes of realizing such an event has occurred, and imposes a minimum penalty of $5,000 for each infraction.”

JacksonKelly goes on to explain that in attempts to streamline the process of notifying MSHA of an accident, “the Final Rule eliminates the need for operators to first report an accident to the District Office. Written comments and public hearing testimony received by MSHA following publication of the ETS indicated that the old system for notifying MSHA of an accident was inefficient and time consuming.” MSHA agreed and has created an accident report call centre where a person will answer calls 24/7. Calling the call centre, fulfills the immediate reporting requirements.

Mandatory requirements of the new rule applicable to underground coal mines include:

  • Availability of additional gas detectors for the purpose of alerting miners of the need to don selfcontained self-rescuers (SCSRs)
  • Installation and use of directional lifelines in escapeways
  • Quarterly emergency mine evacuation training, including a drill
  • Storage of additional SCSRs in working places, escapeways, and where outby crews work or mtravel, as well as on man trips
  • Submission of a training plan and programme of instruction for improved training on SCSRs.

Annual SCSR training is to be conducted in smoke, simulated or real, while breathing through a realistic training unit. A copy of the final rule may be obtained from MSHA’s web site at the following link: