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December 10, 1999

Extent of Problems Under Investigation
MSHA Alerts Mining Community on Self-Rescue Devices

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is alerting the mining community to possible problems with certain self-contained self-rescue breathing units required in underground coal mines. Eight CSE SR-100 self-rescue units manufactured in 1991 through 1993 were found to have deteriorated hoses.

"We're moving rapidly to determine the extent of the problem," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "MSHA is working cooperatively with all parties, including the manufacturer, industry and labor organizations and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. We will provide the mining community with more information, including corrective actions, as rapidly as possible."

MSHA began its investigation into the CSE units after a miner opened a SCSR unit during a recent fire and discovered a deteriorated breathing hose. Immediately, tests were begun on 242 similar units and seven more deteriorated hoses were found. Intensive tests are continuing.

McAteer said that tests so far had not determined the cause of the deteriorated hoses. Possible factors may include exposure to heat, age or the type of material used for the hose. All units so far found to have problems were manufactured before 1994.

"As soon as we found the problem, we took action," McAteer said. "We're now checking hundreds of units to determine the extent of the problem. Upon completion of testing, the manufacturer will be informed of deficiencies that are found. At the same time, we are moving to establish an emergency temporary standard addressing service life and periodic testing to eliminate this type of problem. "

Visual inspections generally do not reveal any hose problems. The agency emphasized that mine operators should perform regular, thorough inspections of their SCSR units and remove from service any units with detectable damage.

MSHA advises that where possible, mines using the CSE SR-100 units should replace older units with newer ones and place extra SCSR units on each mining section. The agency expects to have further information available for the mining community within a few days.

Federal mining regulations require that all underground coal miners be supplied with a breathing device that will provide at least one hour of oxygen in a mine emergency such as a fire or explosion.

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