Press Archive


Charleston, WV (January 16, 2014) – Today, the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety unanimously proposed an unprecedented, comprehensive mine safety rule affecting new mining technologies, additional haulage safeguards, worker training, and human performance issues. The proposed rule will be available for public comment for a 30-day period to allow mine health and safety professionals and members of the public from around the state to offer their suggestions.

Joel Watts, administrator for the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health & Safety, said, “The Board’s commitment to mine safety is reflected throughout the multi-pronged approach to correcting underground coal mining dangers and to put West Virginia’s coal miners in a safer environment than what exists anywhere else in the world.  As just one example of the unprecedented nature of this proposal, no other state or federal law establishes the same level of protection for underground section haulage tasks than what is found in the Board’s proposal.  The Board is truly a pioneer in requiring the use of this new technology, which only recently matured enough to be commercially viable.”

Watts continued, “The Board’s quick and decisive action comes after similar rules have stalled on the federal level.  The Board feels that the technology has finally advanced to a place where continuous mining machinery should have proximity devices on them. The proposal also includes many other safety improvements.  The Board has acted carefully and thoughtfully on the proposal, and it will continue to work together to ensure the safety of our miners remains our number one priority.”

The proposed rule sets forth a more comprehensive approach to underground haulage accidents by requiring the following:   

Proximity detection systems on all “newly purchased” place-change continuous miners by within 6 months following the effective date of the rule and all rebuilt place-change miners within 12 months of the effective date of this rule;

·  Proximity detection systems on all existing place-change continuous miners by within 36 months of the effective date of this rule;

·  Cameras or proximity detection systems on scoop cars and battery-powered section haulage equipment within 36 months of the effective date of this rule;

·  The Office of Miners’ Health Safety & Training is obligated to visit each mine in the state and to host regional workshops to discuss the new requirements and disseminate information on Proximity devices and the use of cameras on underground equipment;

·  Individual machine operators are to ensure their personal safety and the safety of the equipment entrusted to them and others who may be working in the same area of a mine by performing equipment inspections, checking roadways and sounding alarms.

·  A minimum of 100 square inches of reflective or highly visible clothing to be worn by all underground employees.

·  The use of strobes lights, warning cones or extension rods are to be used at hazardous work sites

·  Places a responsibility of the OMHST Director to seek to commence the expeditious approval of extended-cut mining plans with MSHA to reduce instances of unnecessary equipment moves underground;

·  Restates a number of underground haulage safety provisions found in various rules currently in effect (section 13); and

·  Mine site safety meetings to review the provisions of the rule.

Watts said that during the December 12, 2013 meeting of the Board, members heard the final reports on several fatal mining incidents that involved the loss of life due to accidents involving underground machinery. Acting as statue allows and dictates, the Board voted unanimously to begin the process of drafting rules to address this situation. Today, the Board took the next step by unanimously agreeing to post the proposal for comment, also according to statute. 

The Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety is composed of members representing the viewpoints of the operators and labor. It is comprised of Chris Hamilton, WV Coal Association; Ted Hapney, UMWA; Terry Hudson, Patriot Coal; Carl Egnor, UMWA; Charles Russell, Arch Coal; and Gary Trout, UMWA.

For additional information, contact Joel Watts at (304) 957-2306.