Wednesday, November 01, 2006

MSHA Seems Awfully Quiet About This

West Virginia this week alerted the mining industry to a survey of SCSR's that indicated quite a few units out there could have been damaged by heat exposure, specially given that gauges to indicate excessive heat exposure only came in a couple of years ago.

Self Contained Self-Rescuers - West Virginia Inventory Report and Initial Findings of Long-term Temperature Extremes on Self-Contained Self-Rescuers

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a summary by Dennis Roddy:

The state agency overseeing mine safety in West Virginia yesterday issued a warning that could result in the recall of potentially thousands of underground emergency breathing units because there is no way of knowing if they have been exposed to excessive heat.

Ron Wooten, director of the West Virginia Office of Miner Health Safety and Training, said early data from the first survey of self-contained rescuers at the state's coal mines revealed that 2,750 devices designed to supply an hour's worth of oxygen to trapped miners have no gauge or monitor that would show if they had been exposed to excessive heat that would render them useless....

"CSE relies on the operators and federal and state mine inspectors to assist the miners in identifying and removing damaged units in accordance with manufacturer inspections," [CEO Scott] Shearer wrote. "When OMHST ignores manufacturer warnings on temperature and physical damage resulting in carrying units that are so obviously damaged into mines, OMHST sends the wrong message to the industry."

It's the third recent alert about possible reliability problems.

The Post-Gazette also reported earier this month on a report by NIOSH:

Nearly one-third of emergency oxygen packs similar to those used at the Sago and Kentucky Darby mines failed inspection in federal tests performed before disaster struck at the two mines.

The problems with the CSE SR-100 model self-contained self-rescuers ranged from torn and stuck hoses, to dented and cracked casings, to damage from moisture, according to a newly released report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

And the state of Kentucky issued a warning about possible heat-related damage on September 5.

So far as I can see, not a peep from MSHA so far on this rather vital coal mine safety matter.


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