The installation of “proximity detection” systems is being recommended to the underground coal mines in West Virginia by a state task force. After the approval, the recommendation will now be considered by the state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety during a meeting that will happen this Thursday (3).
The members of the West Virginia Mine Safety Technology Task Force voted last week to forward the recommendation. The decision was inspired by an article published last month, which reported that West Virginia officials never acted so far on a five-year-old similar proposal made by a team of inspectors from the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.
The proposal was now resurrected by the task force, which approved the draft rule for posterior consideration. Back in 2008, the inspectors recommended the state require all underground mine operators to install “proximity detection” systems. This technology shuts off mining equipment when it gets too close to workers, threatening their safety.
Most experts say these systems can prevent some of the most common types of coal-mining accidents. Thi means that dozens of deaths could have been prevented in the last years if mine operators had installed proximity detection devices.
Between 1984 and 2010, 30 miners died and 220 were injured in the United States after being crushed, pinned or struck by mining machines underground.
The experts hope that this recommendation won’t end up stalled like two other separate rules proposed by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which also require proximity detection systems.
According to MSHA chief Joe Main, some mine operators across the country are already installing proximity detectors without the legal obligation to do so. However, the voluntary measures cover only about one-fourth of the continuous mining machines in use in the United States. The West Virginia authorities now hope that the recommendation can change that.