MSHA announces annual Winter Alert campaign
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has unveiled its annual Winter Alert campaign, reminding miners and mine operators of the increased hazards that colder weather creates at both surface and underground coal mines.
The Winter Alert campaign, which runs each year through March, emphasizes increased vigilance and adherence to safety principles during the winter months, when cold temperatures increase hazards for miners. Throughout the Winter Alert campaign, MSHA personnel regularly visit mines around the country to heighten awareness of the changing conditions that occur during winter months, and will distribute materials that focus on best practices for safely performing miners’ jobs.
Increased risk of underground explosions
“The cold winter months bring an increased risk of underground coal mine explosions, as well as an increase in hazards associated with ice and snow that collect at surface facilities and preparation plants,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo. “During the Winter Alert campaign, MSHA personnel will work to ensure miners and mine operators have information to maintain safe and healthful working conditions.”
When the barometric pressure drops during colder weather, methane can migrate more easily into the mine atmosphere, increasing the risk of an explosion. Dry winter air also results in drier conditions underground, allowing coal dust to become suspended in the mine atmosphere, increasing the danger of an explosion.
The first line of defense
Examinations are the first line of defense underground and should include the following:
- Check for methane.
- Know the mine’s ventilation plan and maintain ventilation controls.
- Continually apply rock dust to prevent the propagation of an explosion.
At surface operations and preparation plants, hazards such as limited visibility, slippery walkways, and freezing and thawing highwalls may lead to accidents.
- Check highwalls and benches for stability.
- Examine vehicles for exhaust leaks and consider limiting engine idle time to reduce risk of carbon monoxide asphyxiation.
- Remove snow and ice on roadways, and apply sand to maintain traction.