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DOL/MSHA News Release USDL [02-545]
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (202) 693-9423

Released Wednesday, October 2, 2002

News Release

MSHA Launches Winter Alert and Focus on Safe Work Campaign

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is reminding miners and mine operators of the increased hazards that colder weather creates at both surface and underground mines. MSHA's Winter Alert campaign, which runs annually from October through March, emphasizes increased vigilance and adherence to safety principles during winter.

"The risk of underground coal mine explosions increases this time of year, as do hazards associated with ice and snow that collect at surface facilities and prep plants," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave D. Lauriski. "We must all be mindful of the seasonal changes that can affect our work environments."

All coal mines contain methane, and when the barometric pressure drops during colder weather, methane can migrate more easily into the mine atmosphere, increasing the risk of an explosion. Furthermore, dry winter air results in drier conditions underground and this makes coal dust more likely to get suspended in the mine atmosphere, which also can contribute to an explosion. Limited visibility, slippery walkways and freezing and thawing highwalls also contribute to potential mishaps during the winter months.

This year's Winter Alert campaign features a series of posters. The "Highway to Safety" theme focuses on the prevention of coal mine explosions, stressing mine examinations, proper ventilation, rock dusting and mine evacuation. "Don't Let Winter Put You on Ice" addresses hazards specific to surface facilities and prep plants.

Throughout the Winter Alert campaign, mine safety and health specialists will regularly visit mines around the country to heighten awareness to the changing conditions that take place during the winter months. Managers and inspectors will distribute materials that focus on "best practices" for performing miners' jobs and provide compliance assistance in developing solutions to health and safety problems that crop up during the colder months.

A nationwide effort to raise awareness of safety hazards at metal and nonmetal mines begins at this same time in response to a recent rise in fatalities. MSHA personnel will visit metal and nonmetal mines to discuss fatal accidents and encourage mine operators and miners to focus on safe work procedures. They also will attend regional conferences, seminars and meetings to share information on hazard recognition.

MSHA personnel will partner with state mining agencies and national and local industry associations in both the Winter Alert and Focus on Safe Work outreach programs.