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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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MSHA Proposed Rules

Proximity Detection Systems for Underground Mines   [2/1/2010]
[PDF]
FR Doc 2010-1999
[Federal Register: February 1, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 20)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 5009-5012]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr01fe10-9]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Mine Safety and Health Administration

30 CFR Parts 57 and 75

RIN 1219-AB65

 
Proximity Detection Systems for Underground Mines

AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration, Labor.

ACTION: Request for information.

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SUMMARY: The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is requesting 
information regarding whether the use of proximity detection systems 
would reduce the risk of accidents where mobile equipment pins, 
crushes, or strikes miners in underground mines and, if so, how. MSHA 
is also requesting information to determine if the Agency should 
consider regulatory action and, if so, what type of regulatory action 
would be appropriate.

DATES: Comments must be received by midnight Eastern Standard Time on 
April 2, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Comments must be identified with ``RIN 1219-AB65'' and may 
be sent to MSHA by any of the following methods:
     Federal E-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments.
     Electronic mail: zzMSHA-Comments@dol.gov. Include ``RIN 
1219-AB65'' in the subject line of the message.
     Facsimile: 202-693-9441. Include ``RIN 1219-AB65'' in the 
subject line of the message.
     Regular Mail: MSHA, Office of Standards, Regulations, and 
Variances, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Room 2350, Arlington, Virginia 22209-
3939.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: MSHA, Office of Standards, 
Regulations, and Variances, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Room 2350, 
Arlington, Virginia. Sign in at the receptionist's desk on the 21st 
floor.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patricia W. Silvey, Director, Office 
of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, at 
silvey.patricia@dol.gov (e[dash]mail), 202-693-9440 (voice), or 202-
693-9441 (Facsimile).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Availability of Information

    MSHA will post all comments on the Internet without change, 
including any personal information provided. Access comments 
electronically at http://www.msha.gov under the ``Rules and Regs'' 
link. Review comments in person at the Office of Standards, 
Regulations, and Variances, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Room 2350, 
Arlington, Virginia. Sign in at the receptionist's desk on the 21st 
floor.
    MSHA maintains a list that enables subscribers to receive e-mail 
notification when the Agency publishes rulemaking documents in the 
Federal Register. To subscribe, go to http://www.msha.gov/
subscriptions/subscribe.aspx.
    Information on MSHA-approved proximity detection systems is 
available on the Internet at http://www.msha.gov/Accident_Prevention/
NewTechnologies/ProximityDectection/ProximitydetectionSingleSource.asp.

II. Background

A. Review of Proximity Detection Technology and Proximity Detection 
Systems

    Proximity detection is a technology that uses electronic sensors to 
detect motion or the location of one object relative to another object. 
Although the technology is not new, application of this technology to 
mobile equipment in underground mines is new.
    MSHA conducted tests in collaboration with proximity detection 
manufacturers and mine operators at mine sites from 2002 to 2006. The 
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has 
conducted research on proximity detection technologies independently at 
various times since the mid 1990s to present day. The technologies 
include radio, ultrasonic, radar, infrared, and electromagnetic field 
based systems. After reviewing the different types of systems, MSHA 
determined that the electromagnetic field based system offers the 
greatest potential for reducing pinning, crushing, and striking hazards 
to: (1) Remote control continuous mining machine (RCCM) operators and 
(2) other miners working near RCCMs.
    An electromagnetic field based system consists of a combination of 
electromagnetic field generators and field detecting devices. One 
example of an electromagnetic field based system uses electromagnetic 
field generators that are installed on an RCCM and electronic sensing 
devices that are worn by persons operating the RCCM or working near the 
RCCM. Another electromagnetic field based system uses field generators 
worn by the operator of the RCCM and persons working near the RCCM and 
the sensing devices are installed on the RCCM. These electromagnetic 
field based systems can be programmed to provide warnings to affected 
miners or stop the RCCM, or both, when the RCCM operator or other 
miners get within the predefined danger zone of the RCCM.
    In 1998, MSHA studied accidents involving RCCMs and determined that 
a proximity detection system has the potential to prevent accidents 
that occur when an RCCM operator or another miner gets within the 
predefined danger zone of the RCCM. In 2002, in response to an increase 
in accidents involving RCCMs, MSHA initiated a project in cooperation 
with a proximity detection system manufacturer and an underground coal 
mine operator. The Agency's goal was to have the manufacturer develop 
and test an electromagnetic field based system on an RCCM in an 
underground coal mine. In 2004, MSHA assisted a second manufacturer 
with the development of an electromagnetic field based system. The 
field tests of these two systems focused on addressing hazards to the 
RCCM operator, but the systems could be adapted to address hazards to 
other miners working near the RCCM.
    MSHA approved both of these systems in 2006 and a third system in 
2009 under existing regulations in 30 CFR part 18. These approvals 
ensure that the systems will not introduce an ignition hazard when 
operated in potentially explosive atmospheres. The three approved 
systems are:
     The Frederick Mining Controls, LLC, 
HazardAvertTM System,

[[Page 5010]]

     The Nautilus International, Coal-Buddy System, and
     The Matrix Design Group, M3-1000 Proximity Monitoring 
System.

B. Review of Proximity Detection Systems and RCCMs in Underground Coal 
and Metal/Nonmetal Mines

    MSHA's experience with proximity detection systems relates to 
RCCMs. Approximately 95 percent of the continuous mining machines used 
in underground coal and metal/nonmetal mines are remote controlled, and 
most RCCMs do not have an operator's compartment. The RCCM operator 
controls the machine using a remote control unit that directs movement 
and other functions of the machine. The remote control unit 
communicates with the RCCM using radio waves or a cable.
    Moving an RCCM through a mine requires that the RCCM operator 
observe, plan, and use judgment with respect to the surrounding area. 
The RCCM operator must move the machine through the underground mine in 
areas with limited clearance. To observe the area around the machine, 
RCCM operators are often inadvertently exposed to pinning, crushing, or 
striking hazards. RCCM operators cannot always monitor the entire area 
surrounding the machine or communicate with other miners that work near 
it.
    MSHA evaluated pinning, crushing, and striking accidents involving 
RCCMs that have occurred since 1983. Although the evaluation revealed 
that work practices were contributing factors in all of the accidents, 
the Agency believes that proximity detection systems may provide a 
necessary and additional margin of safety to RCCM operators and other 
miners who work near RCCMs.
    In 2004, MSHA implemented a Remote Control Continuous Mining 
Machine Special Initiative to inform underground mine operators and 
miners about the dangers of pinning, crushing, or striking hazards 
while working near RCCMs. This initiative included outreach efforts to 
educate the mining community about these hazards through webcasts, 
special alerts, videos, and bulletins. Despite these outreach efforts, 
accidents involving RCCMs are still occurring. The Agency believes that 
training and outreach alone may be insufficient to prevent these 
accidents.
    MSHA is working with the West Virginia Mine Safety Technology Task 
Force (Task Force) and NIOSH to evaluate proximity detection systems 
that use electromagnetic field based technology. The Task Force, with 
assistance from NIOSH, developed a field testing protocol that includes 
design considerations, implementation plans, and field testing 
criteria. The Task Force, NIOSH, and MSHA began field testing of 
proximity detection systems using this protocol in July 2009. The test 
protocol was not able to be implemented in July 2009 because of 
problems with the proximity detection systems. Manufacturer 
improvements were necessary before tests could be re-initiated. Due to 
the results of the tests, manufacturers made refinements to the 
equipment. Additional tests will be scheduled in the near future.

C. Review of Accidents

Review of Accidents With Fatalities Involving RCCMs in Underground Coal 
and Metal/Nonmetal Mines
    Since 1983, 31 miners have been killed in accidents where an RCCM 
has pinned, crushed, or struck the RCCM operator or another miner 
working near the RCCM. Thirty of these fatalities occurred in 
underground coal mines and one occurred in an underground metal/
nonmetal mine. MSHA reviewed these fatalities and found that 24 
involved RCCM operators. Of these 24, 17 involved operators moving the 
machine; four involved operators performing maintenance; two involved 
operators performing non-maintenance tasks, such as positioning the 
boom or trimming the mine floor; and one involved an operator whose 
machine was struck by another RCCM. The remaining seven fatalities 
involved other miners in or around the RCCM: Four miners handling the 
machine's trailing cable; two miners performing maintenance on the 
machine; and one miner who approached the RCCM without the operator's 
knowledge (this fatality occurred in a metal and nonmetal mine). Of the 
31 fatalities, five involved a remote control unit that malfunctioned 
or had a safety mechanism deliberately overridden. In addition, poor 
work practices were contributing factors in all of these fatal 
accidents.
    Based on MSHA's experience gained from: The field testing of 
proximity detection systems; the accident investigations; and 
communications with manufacturers and NIOSH, the Agency believes that a 
safety program based on sound risk management principles should include 
proximity detection systems, or some other engineering control that 
addresses the hazard at the source. MSHA's analysis of the 31 fatal 
accident investigation reports showed that, in most cases, a miner was 
in an area where a proximity detection system might have provided a 
warning or stopped the machine. In the remaining cases, a proximity 
detection system might have prevented the RCCM from starting to move 
when miners got within the predefined danger zone, such as when a miner 
was on the machine performing maintenance.
Review of Non-Fatal Accidents Involving RCCMs
    MSHA reviewed 67 non-fatal accidents that occurred in underground 
coal mines from 1999 through 2004. In these accidents, the RCCM pinned, 
crushed, or struck a miner during routine mining activities, such as: 
Production; moving the RCCM in the same production area; moving the 
RCCM from one production area to another; cleaning up loose material; 
and performing maintenance on the RCCM. Approximately half of the 
accidents occurred while the RCCM was being moved from one location to 
another.
    MSHA determined that other factors may have also contributed to 
these accidents: Improper or complete lack of communication between 
coworkers resulting in the machine operator not being aware of the 
location of other miners in the surrounding area; and inadequate 
training, since many of the accidents involved experienced miners 
(miners with five or more years of total mining experience) who had 
less than one year of experience at the mine where the accident 
occurred, and who may not have been adequately trained in their tasks 
or the hazards at the new mine. Proximity detection systems might have 
helped prevent many of these non-fatal accidents by providing an 
additional margin of safety.
Review of Accidents Involving Underground Mobile Equipment Other Than 
RCCMs
    Some fatal and non-fatal pinning, crushing, or striking accidents 
involved other equipment used in underground mining including shuttle 
cars, scoops, belt drives, feeders, loaders/muckers, track equipment, 
trucks, roof bolting machines, and mobile bridge conveyors. Based on 
conversations with proximity detection system manufacturers, MSHA is 
aware that they are adapting proximity detection technology to 
underground mobile equipment other than RCCMs. Proximity detection 
systems might help prevent accidents involving these types of 
underground equipment.

III. Information Request

    MSHA is requesting information from the mining community regarding 
whether the use of proximity detection systems would reduce injuries 
and fatalities in underground mines and, if so, how. MSHA is 
particularly

[[Page 5011]]

interested in comments addressing pinning, crushing and striking 
hazards to miners working near RCCMs. The Agency is also interested in 
whether the application of this technology to other underground 
equipment might help reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities and, if 
so, how.
    Please provide sufficient detail in your responses to enable proper 
Agency review and consideration. Where possible, include specific 
examples to support the rationale for your position. Please identify 
the relevant information on which you rely. Include experiences, data, 
models, calculations, studies and articles, and standard professional 
practices.

Proximity Detection Systems

    Proximity detection systems must perform reliably and effectively 
to successfully prevent accidents. MSHA is requesting information to 
assess whether this technology can perform effectively with underground 
mining equipment to improve safety in underground mines. The 
information requested will be useful in determining whether regulatory 
action is needed and, if so, what type of regulatory action would be 
appropriate. MSHA does not anticipate the need for new approval 
regulations to address the design of proximity detection systems.
    1. Please provide information on the most effective protection to 
miners that you believe proximity detection systems could provide, 
e.g., warning, stopping the equipment, or other protection. Include 
your rationale.
    2. Other than electromagnetic field based systems, please address 
other methods for effectively achieving MSHA's goal for reducing 
pinning, crushing, and striking hazards in underground mines.
    3. In general, reliability is defined as the ability of a system to 
perform when needed. Please provide information on how to determine the 
reliability of a proximity detection system. The Agency would 
appreciate information that describes reliability testing, how 
reliability is measured, and supporting data.
    4. Manufacturers should design their systems to be fail-safe. 
Please provide information on how miners would know when a proximity 
detection system is not working properly. Include suggestions for what 
works best, including your experience, if applicable.
    5. Please describe procedures that might be appropriate for testing 
and evaluating whether a proximity detection system is functioning 
properly. Include details such as the frequency of tests and the 
qualifications of persons performing tests; include specific rationale 
for your suggestions.
    6. Some proximity detection systems provide a warning before the 
equipment shuts down. An excessive number of warnings can cause miners 
to become complacent and routinely ignore them as nuisance alarms. 
Please describe any experience you have had with nuisance alarms and 
how you addressed these alarms to assure an appropriate level of safety 
for miners. In addition, please provide suggestions for minimizing 
nuisance alarms.
    7. How should the size and shape of the area around equipment that 
a proximity detection system monitors be determined? What specific 
criteria should be used to identify this area, e.g., width of entry, 
seam height, section type, size of equipment, procedures for moving 
equipment, speed of equipment, and related information? Please provide 
any additional criteria that you believe would be useful in identifying 
the area to be protected.
    8. Proximity detection systems can be programmed and installed to 
provide different zones of protection depending on equipment function. 
For example, a proximity detection system could monitor a larger area 
around the RCCM when it is being moved and a smaller area when the 
machine operator is performing a specific task, such as cutting and 
loading material. How should a proximity detection system be programmed 
and installed for each equipment function?
    9. Since 1983, six fatalities occurred while miners performed 
maintenance on RCCMs. The fatalities involved three miners crushed in 
the machine and three miners pinned between the machine and mine wall 
or roof. Please provide specific information, including experience, on 
how a proximity detection system might be used to protect miners during 
maintenance activities and why the system would be effective in each 
situation.
    10. Some proximity detection systems include an override function 
that allows the system to be temporarily deactivated. Please provide 
information on whether an override function is appropriate and, if so, 
please provide information on the circumstances under which such a 
function should be used. Please provide information on the types of 
procedures or safety precautions that could be used to prevent 
unauthorized deactivation of a proximity detection system.
    11. MSHA found, in its field testing experience, that the use of 
some new technology for controlling motor speed, like variable 
frequency drives, could result in nuisance or false alarms (shutdowns) 
from the proximity detection system. Please provide information on 
other sources of interference, if any, that might affect the successful 
performance of proximity detection systems in underground mines. In 
addition, please provide information on whether a proximity detection 
system might adversely affect other electronic devices, such as 
atmospheric monitoring systems, used in underground mines. Please 
provide specific circumstances including: (1) Types of equipment; (2) 
adverse effect; and (3) how the adverse effect could be minimized.

Application to RCCMs

    MSHA's experience with proximity detection technology and proximity 
detection systems has focused on RCCMs. An RCCM often has auxiliary 
equipment, such as roof bolting machines and mobile bridge conveyors, 
attached to it. The interconnection of this equipment can introduce 
additional pinning, crushing, or striking hazards.
    12. Commenters who have experience with RCCMs, please describe: (1) 
any experience with pinning, crushing, and striking hazards, including 
accidents and near misses; and (2) any unique experience with an RCCM 
with auxiliary equipment attached.
    13. How should the area that a proximity detection system monitors 
be determined on an RCCM interconnected with auxiliary equipment?

Applications to Underground Equipment Other Than RCCMs

    MSHA requests information on whether proximity detection technology 
might be applicable to reducing the risk of accidents involving other 
types of underground equipment.
    14. Describe whether there are safety benefits from applying 
proximity detection systems to underground equipment other than RCCMs. 
Describe your experience with pinning, crushing, or striking accidents 
and near-misses involving other underground equipment. Please provide 
examples identifying the specific types of equipment involved and how 
proximity detection systems may help provide an additional margin of 
safety to miners. Also describe any experience you have with respect to 
obtaining MSHA or other agency approval for systems designed for 
underground equipment other than RCCMS.
    15. How might a proximity detection system for remote controlled 
equipment be different than one for non-remote controlled equipment?
    16. Manufacturers are evaluating the use of proximity detection 
systems on

[[Page 5012]]

multiple pieces of equipment that operate near each other, such as 
RCCMs and shuttle cars. In your experience, what are the safety 
considerations of coordinating proximity detection systems between 
various types of underground equipment?
    17. Describe your experience with the state-of-the-art of proximity 
warning technology. Include any experience related to whether the 
current technology is able to accurately locate and protect workers 
from all recognized hazards.

Training

    18. What knowledge or skills would be necessary for miners to 
safely operate equipment that uses a proximity detection system? What 
knowledge or skills would other miners working near the equipment need?
    19. Please provide suggestions on how to effectively train miners 
on the use and dangers of equipment that uses a proximity detection 
system. Please include information on the type of training (e.g., task 
training) that could be used and on any evaluations conducted on the 
effectiveness of outreach and/or training in the area of proximity 
detection (e.g., red zone warning materials). How often should miners 
receive such training?

Benefits and Costs

    MSHA requests comment on the following questions concerning the 
costs, benefits, and the technological and economic feasibility of 
using proximity detection systems in underground mines. Benefits would 
include an increased margin of safety for miners working near machines 
equipped with proximity detection systems resulting in the reduction in 
pinning, crushing, and striking accidents. Your answers to these 
questions will help MSHA evaluate options and determine a course of 
action.
    20. Please provide information on the benefits of using proximity 
detection systems with RCCMs. Please be specific in your response and, 
if appropriate, include the benefits of using proximity detection 
systems with other types of underground equipment. Include information 
on your experience related to whether proximity detection systems cause 
a change in the behavior of an RCCM operator. For example, would the 
operator need to operate the machine from a different location, such as 
one that might introduce additional hazards, to remain outside of a 
predefined danger zone? Please explain your answer in detail and 
provide examples as appropriate.
    21. Please provide information on the costs for installing, 
maintaining, and calibrating proximity detection systems on underground 
equipment. What are the feasibility issues, if any, related to 
retrofitting certain types of equipment with proximity detection 
systems?
    22. What is the expected useful life of a proximity detection 
system? Please provide suggested criteria for servicing or replacing 
proximity detection systems, including rationale for your suggestions.
    23. Some proximity detection systems automatically record (data 
logging) information about the system and the equipment. Are there 
safety benefits to having a proximity detection system automatically 
record certain information? If so, please provide specific details on: 
(1) Safety benefits to be derived; (2) information that should be 
recorded; and (3) how information should be kept.
    24. Please provide information on whether small mines or mines with 
special mining conditions, such as low seam or mine entry height, have 
particular needs related to the use of proximity detection systems. 
Please be specific and include information on possible alternatives.
    25. What factors (e.g., cost, nuisance alarms) have impeded the 
mining industry from voluntarily installing proximity detection systems 
on mining equipment?

    Dated: January 27, 2010.
Joseph A. Main,
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.
[FR Doc. 2010-1999 Filed 1-29-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4510-43-P