Over the past several years, the U.S. Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has been developing a rule which requires that continuous mining machines, used in underground coal mines, be equipped with proximity detection systems. The rule has been in effect since early this year, and it was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 15.
For those who don't know, continuous miners remove coal from the seam. They are controlled by remotes and they're ac-powered. The coal is actually removed using a rotating steel drum, each of which must be fitted with carbide cutting bits. Continuous miners can load up almost forty tons of coal per minute using a mining method called room and pillar. It's a very simple process: collectors gather the coal as it drops, and they load it onto shuttle cars, conveyer belts, or other transport machinery to be brought to the surface.
While the process may be rather simple, the risk is not small. While down there, thirty-five coal miners have died in the US since 1984, as a result of getting crushed, being pinned, or struck by continuous mining machines. The productive tool weights approximately seventy-four tons, and you can imagine how confined of a space it must operate within. There is very little room for anything in it's path, including people. And, that's why the MSHA is enforcing the use of proximity detection systems. In fact, several mining companies were already using the technology when the new rule was finally rolled out.
The detection systems use sensors to detect both the location of any objects and any movement in the area. They are programmed to stop machines and send out warning signals before these enormous machines come anywhere near contact with a miner. A seventy-four ton machine only needs to nip a human to cause a very serious injury, so combatting these accidents has been made a priority for the MSHA. In order to comply with the new rule, a miner must have all of the wearable components which work alongside the component that mounts the machine. That way the system can detect proximity from person to machine. In addition to turning on the equipment, all mining companies must establish thorough training to ensure that performance and maintenance requirements are met.
Proximity detection systems deliver visual warning on the machine before shutting down, and they also provide audible and visual warnings on the miner-wearable component as well. It also must be able to cease movement of the machine in a short time-frame if any part is detected to not be working properly. Lastly, the performance of other electrical systems in the mine must not be affected in order to prevent electrical interference.
Here at MRES, we are proud to fit the mountain region with the proximity detection systems that will allow of them to most efficiently get their jobs done in the safest way possible. To read the full release from Diesel Progress North America, Click Here.
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