4 November 1997

The US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has released a compliance guide for its new regulations that set approval, exhaust gas monitoring and safety requirements for the use of diesel-powered equipment in underground coal mines. The guide is intended to assist mine operators and diesel equipment manufacturers in complying with the new requirements.

"Diesel-powered equipment can pose a number of potential hazards in underground coal operations," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The new regulations will help safeguard miners from fires, explosions, toxic exhaust gases and other dangers that can be encountered when using diesel-powered equipment underground."

As internal combustion engines, diesels present a possible explosion risk in the underground coal mine environment where potentially explosive methane gas can occur. High-temperature components of diesel engines also can pose a fire hazard in the presence of coal and other combustibles. Diesel fuels that are handled and stored underground can create additional fire dangers, and diesel exhaust can be hazardous to miners.

The just released compliance quide is part of an on-going effort by MSHA to help the industry gain compliance with the new regulations, according to McAteer.

McAteer explained that as part of the implementation of these new regulations, MSHA held public informational meetings across the country, presented an overview of the requirements of the new regulations, and solicited questions from the audience. The mining community also was invited to submit additional questions in writing to MSHA. These questions have been consolidated and answered in the compliance guide.

The new regulations include the following:

  • All diesel machines used at the working face of the underground coal mine must be MSHA-approved and require design features to reduce fire and explosion hazards.
  • Diesel equipment must be outfitted with brakes, lights, fire suppression systems and certain items must also be equipped with protective cabs or canopies and machine-mounted methane monitors.
  • Diesel equipment must be maintained by adequately trained personnel.
  • Fuel must be safely stored and handled.
  • Diesel engines must use low-sulfur fuel and undergo emissions testing.
  • Proper ventilation will be required to protect miners from toxic gaseous emissions.
  • Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide levels must be monitored in areas where diesel machinery is used.

There are nearly 3,000 diesel units currently operating in underground US coal mines, compared to roughly 150 in 1974. Diesel machines most often used in underground coal mines include personnel carriers, utility trucks and tractors. Other diesel-powered underground equipment includes generators, scoops, compressors, welders, shuttle cars, road graders and roof-bolting machines.

MSHA's new rule on the use of diesel-powered equipment in underground coal mines became effective in November 1996, with a number of a number of requirements to be phased in over the next two years.

The compliance guide is available from MSHA's Home Page at http://www.msha.gov, by following the links:

The Compliance Guide: [ HTML | WORDPERFECT | PDF ]

Contact: Amy Louviere, phone (703) 235-1452.

Source: MSHA News Release No. 97-1104