coal mineThe United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is cheering a proposed rule by the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety that would mandate the installation of proximity devices on mining equipment throughout the state.

“Several fatalities and dozens of severe injuries a year can be prevented by proximity detection devices,” said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts. “West Virginia is once again leading the way for the entire nation in improving mine safety.”

The proposed rule would mandate the installation of proximity detection devices on all continuous mining machines, which are operated at the working face of a mine, within 36 months of the effective date of the rule. Proximity detection devices or cameras will be required on all other battery-powered haulage equipment underground within 36 months as well.

Upon detecting a person, the proximity detection device would sound an alarm if the person was within five feet of the machine, and automatically shut the machine off if it detected a person within a three-foot zone around the machine.

Mine operators have objected to the costs of proximity devices.

UMWA International Secretary-Treasurer Daniel J. Kane said it was long past time for the technology to be put in place. “I am pleased that the UMWA’s representatives to the West Virginia Coal Board were able to work with the industry representatives to get this done.  We hope the federal government will move forward on its on own rule and that other states with underground mines will follow West Virginia’s lead as soon as possible.”