Since 1983, there have been 31 fatalities involving Remote Control Continuous Mining Machines (RCCMs) that have pinned, crushed or struck RCCM operators or other miners working nearby. MSHA is now considering whether regulatory action involving the use of proximity detection systems in underground mines will help reduce the number of these types of accidents, particularly those associated with the use of RCCMs. MSHA has determined that an electromagnetic field-based proximity detection system offers the greatest potential for reducing the number of pinning, crushing and striking hazards, without introducing an ignition hazard when working in potentially explosive environments. An electromagnetic field-based proximity detection system works through a combination of electromagnetic field generators and field-detecting devices. For example, a field generator would be installed on a RCCM, and the operator and miners working nearby would be required to wear electronic sensing devices, so that when the predefined danger parameter around the RCCM is breached, an alarm is triggered to warn nearby miners, or alternatively, the RCCM shuts down.
MSHA is requesting information from the mining community to determine if the use of proximity detection systems would reduce injuries and fatalities in underground mines. MSHA is seeking additional comments regarding, among other things, the parameters and design requirements for proximity detection systems, whether such systems may be useful for other types of underground mining equipment, the costs and benefits of requiring proximity detection systems, and the training that would be necessary to use such systems.
The deadline for submission of comments to MSHA is midnight EST on April 2, 2010. Comments can be submitted via email directly to MSHA at zzMSHA-Comments@dol.gov and must include "RIN 1219-AB65" in the subject line of the message. The entire text of MSHA's request for information, as well as other methods through which comments may be submitted, can be read by clicking this link, Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration, 75 Fed. Reg. 20 (proposed February 1, 2010) (to be codified at 30 C.F.R. pts. 57, 75).