knowledge in mine illumination, specifically in the emerging technology of
solid-state lighting (SSL). 3 This research
team is determining the effectiveness
and feasibility of using SSL to improve
the visual performance of underground
miners at the working face. This new
knowledge also benefits designers, installers and those maintaining mine illumination systems to ensure the mine
environment is safely illuminated. An
improved light emitting diode (LED) cap
lamp has already been developed and
is going through the commercialization
process to be made available to the mining work force (see Figure 4).
Groundfalls remain the highest cause of
fatalities and injuries in underground coal
mines. From 2003 to 2007, groundfalls
accounted for 40 percent of all fatalities
in underground coal mines. Each large
fall is considered to be a failure of the
support system. Support system failure
research is the basis for the work of this
Ground control research identifies areas
at risk for coal bursts in deep cover room
and pillar mines. MSHA’s Crandall Canyon
report identified coal bursts as one of the
major hazards faced by miners, and found
that a key step in burst control is to iden-
Figure 3. Proposed kneepad designs for
low-seam coal miners.
tify “red zone” areas that might be prone
to bursts. 5 The key research outcomes are
quantitative guidelines for identifying
zones of low, moderate and high risk, and
guidelines for using computer-based mapping systems for data analysis.
Figure 4. The light emitting diode cap lamp
(top) significantly increases illumination.
Electrical and Mechanical System
Another NIOSH priority is intelligent
safety technologies for mining machinery
research. An intelligent lockout/tagout
(iLOTO) system, currently in development,
focuses on evaluating existing technologies that may be capable of monitoring the
positions of machine guards, and transmitting LOTO status to mine personnel. The
purpose is to develop and test interventions to prevent injuries due to improperly
locked-out or tagged-out equipment.
iLOTO systems have the potential to reduce
accidents by making conventional LOTO
procedures smarter, warning workers and
operators of hazardous situations and
providing additional accountability in performing maintenance and repair.
Fire and Explosions
A coal mine ventilation and explosion
project is under way to enhance worker
safety by decreasing the likelihood of
explosions caused by hazardous under-
ground methane concentrations. Gas
migration can originate from numerous
sources (gassy coal beds, strata, previ-
ously mined workings) that overlie and/or
underlie active workings, which can con-
tribute to methane concentrations. The
effectiveness and limitations of current
bleeder systems to safely remove gasses
from active longwall panels and adjoin-
ing gobs is under investigation.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
CDC-NIOSH research at OMSHR is extensive and diverse. The health and safety
of miners—and all workers—requires
diverse expertise and attention to a wide
range of health and safety risks. OMSHR
works to stay abreast of the health and
safety needs of miners. The output from
this research is made available to the
mining industry and the general public
through equipment manufacturers, device suppliers and electronic and printed
media. For more information on NIOSH
safety and health research on mining,
Joel M. Haight, PhD, PE, CIH, is CDC/NIOSH Human
Factors branch chief in Pittsburgh, Pa. He can be
reached at email@example.com or (412) 386-6648.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): BLS
Home Page. [Online] Available at www.
bls.gov (accessed March 1, 2012).
2. NIOSH: Work-Related Lung Disease
Surveillance Report 2007. [Online]
Available at www.cdc.gov/niosh/
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number
3. MSHA: Mine Data Retrieval System
Home Page. [Online] Available at www.
Feb. 21, 2012).
4. NIOSH: Office of Mine Safety and Health
Research Topic: Education and Training. [Online] Available at www.cdc.gov/
niosh/mining/topics/ topicpage32.htm (
accessed March 1, 2012).
5. MSHA: Report of Investigation: Underground Coal Mine, Fatal Underground
Coal Burst Accidents, August 6 and
16, 2007, Crandall Canyon Mine.
[Online] Available at www.msha.gov/