The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration this week launched its annual roof fall prevention awareness program aimed at reducing the high number of roof falls that occur in the nation’s underground coal mines. Statistics show that more accidents and injuries from roof falls occur during the summer months than at any other time of year. As temperatures rise, humidity and moisture increase underground, making it easier for a mine roof or rib to fall.
“Underground roof falls continue to be a leading cause of coal mining fatalities,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Miners and mine operators are urged to pay attention to roof conditions – not just in summer, but throughout the year.”
Since 2000, there have been 69 coal mining fatalities attributed to “fall of roof or back and fall of face/rib/pillar/side/highwall.” During the agency’s Preventive Roof/Rib Outreach Program, also known as PROP, which runs through September, MSHA personnel will advise operators to examine roof that has weathered due to humid air; communicate immediately with miners when they observe adverse roof conditions; install supplemental support when conditions warrant; scale loose roof in the face area where miners work; and consistently follow the approved roof control plan for their mines.
Beginning this week, federal mine inspectors will distribute educational information including posters and hardhat stickers to remind the coal industry about potential hazards and suggested remedies. MSHA officials will speak directly to miners about the problems warmer weather causes for underground mines and present them with pertinent statistics about the increase in accidents during the warmer weather months.