On January 27, 2014 the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety filed for public comment a rule entitled Haulage Safety Generally, which would require, among other things, the installation of proximity detection devices on certain underground mining equipment to prevent injuries resulting from being struck by mobile equipment. The period for public comment was initially set to expire on February 28, 2014, but was recently extended to March 11, 2014.
West Virginia's proposed haulage safety rule would place the State at the forefront of requiring proximity detection technology, which employs cameras to warn equipment operators and shut down their equipment when it comes within certain distances of hazards or other miners. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration ("MSHA") proposed a proximity detection rule in August of 2011, but that rule has remains stalled as of this date.
The haulage safety rule proposed by the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety contains, among others, the following significant provisions:
- Installation of proximity warning systems on all new place change continuous miners within 6 months of the effective date of the rule and installation of proximity warning systems on all rebuilt place change continuous miners within 12 months of the effective date of the rule. All existing place change continuous miners in operation must be refitted with a proximity detection system within 36 months of the effective date of the rule.
- All scoops and other battery-powered section haulage equipment not provided with a proximity detection system must, at a minimum, employ cameras or other approved alternatives that provide alerts or warnings to persons traveling in the area.
- All proximity detection units must be tested at the beginning of each production shift and must be maintained according to manufacturer's specifications and recommendations. Knowingly tampering with or attempting to tamper with proximity detection equipment is made a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $100,000 fine.
- Equipment Operators are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring proper visibility by removing from their equipment all items that inhibit or restrict visibility.
- Equipment Operators must physically walk the path of travel to ensure the absence of hazards or persons in the path of travel, and they must sound the audible alarm on their equipment when approaching any blind spot, turn, or offset in the haulage way or through any brattice material.
- Mine operators must provide all underground miners with at least 100 square inches of reflective or highly visible clothing to be worn at all times while underground.
- At least two devices from among approved strobe lights, pogo sticks, or cones must be employed where work is being performed that presents a high risk of collision or contact by equipment.
These provisions represent major change in the safety requirements for mobile equipment employed in underground coal mines. Operators are encouraged to review West Virginia's proposed haulage safety rule in its entirety to determine precisely how they will be affected. Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted to Joel L. Watts by email at email@example.com or by regular mail at 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E., State Capitol Complex, Building 6, Suite 652, Charleston, West Virginia 25302.