MSHA: Winter Campaign to tackle coal mine explosion and hazard risks

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has announced its annual Winter Alert campaign to highlight the increased risk of explosions in coal mines and hazards that colder weather creates at surface and underground coal mines. It is aimed at miners and mine operators and runs each year through to March.

Methane can migrate more easily into the mine atmosphere and increase the risk of explosion when the barometric pressure drops during cold weather. The danger of an explosion is also increased from dry winter air that can also result in drier conditions underground, which allows coal dust to become suspended in the mind atmosphere.

David Zatezalo, assistant secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, said: “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. During the Winter Alert campaign, MSHA personnel will work to ensure miners and mine operators have information to maintain safe and healthful working conditions.”

MSHA personnel visit mines around the country throughout the Winter campaign to heighten awareness of the changing conditions that occur, and distribute materials that focus on best practices to safely carrying out work.


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.





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