[Federal Register: February 1, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 20)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Mine Safety and Health Administration
30 CFR Parts 57 and 75
Proximity Detection Systems for Underground Mines
AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration, Labor.
ACTION: Request for information.
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-
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
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patricia W. Silvey, Director, Office
of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, at
firstname.lastname@example.org (e[dash]mail), 202-693-9440 (voice), or 202-
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
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/
Information on MSHA-approved proximity detection systems is
available on the Internet at http://www.msha.gov/Accident_Prevention/
A. Review of Proximity Detection Technology and Proximity Detection
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
The Frederick Mining Controls, LLC,
The Nautilus International, Coal-Buddy System, and
The Matrix Design Group, M3-1000 Proximity Monitoring
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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