On October 16, 2018, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) conducted a quarterly stakeholder conference call. Among the topics highlighted by MSHA were vehicle fire safety, in light of recent accidents in which fire suppression systems allegedly failed to function as intended, and a renewed emphasis on conveyor safety, which is part of MSHA’s powered haulage safety initiative. 

MSHA reviewed recent fatalities and described what the agency characterized as a concerning uptick in the occurrence of fires on vehicles. Due to these recent incidents, MSHA announced that it is launching a Fire Suppression System Initiative. MSHA’s enforcement and training personnel will be closely monitoring fire suppression systems on surface vehicles at mine sites. MSHA asks that operators work with the manufacturers of fire suppression systems to ensure that mine vehicles are designed and maintained in compliance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and manufacturers’ recommendations.

As part of the fire suppression initiative, the agency is stressing the importance of periodic and detailed maintenance, review of evacuation/egress methods, adequate task training for vehicle operators, and detailed review of the fire suppression system owner’s manual. The agency reminds operators to train on egress methods, including use of a removal tool for secondary means of egress, and to keep emergency pathways clear and usable. MSHA also recommends that operators coordinate with manufacturers to ensure that together they are doing monthly and semiannual checks of the systems, as appropriate. MSHA’s technical team has developed a training presentation and checklist. MSHA used this training presentation to train its inspectors and educate personnel, and is advising operators that the checklist will be used by inspectors on enforcement visits.

During the quarterly call, MSHA officials also reviewed the agency’s Powered Haulage Safety Initiative and reiterated its importance, stating that over 50 percent of mine-related fatalities in 2018 involved powered haulage. The power haulage initiative is focused on large mobile equipment safety, seat belt usage, and conveyor safety. The third of these topics, conveyor safety, is the current emphasis of the agency, with guarding, lockout/tagout, and safe access during maintenance checks of particular interest. MSHA has created brochures and other materials for inspectors and compliance assistance personnel to distribute during mine visits.

Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Dave Zatezalo announced that, as of October 1, 2018, 90 mines have been switched from the jurisdiction of one field office to another as part of the “One MSHA” initiative, in which coal inspectors are beginning to inspect at metal/non-metal facilities. The 90 mines are spread out among the agency’s 15 districts across the country.

Members of Ogletree Deakins’ Mine Safety group will be following these developments and will post updates on the Mine Safety blog. Stay tuned.


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