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Federal Register: July 7, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 129)
Page 36632-36633


30 CFR Parts 57 and 75

RIN 1219-AB19

Safety Standards for Self-Rescue Devices in Underground Coal and
Underground Metal and Nonmetal Mines

AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration, Labor.

ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking.


SUMMARY: The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is considering revising its safety standards for self-rescue devices based on MSHA's continuing evaluation of self-rescue devices and the public comments received during the recent Self-Rescue Conference held in Beckley, West Virginia. Self-rescue breathing devices, used in underground mines for over 25 years, have saved lives. The devices are subjected to harsh in-mine use conditions and are stored in a rugged mining environment. The rule would help assure that the devices will function as intended whenever they are needed in mine emergencies.

DATES: Submit comments on or before August 6, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to MSHA, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, Room 631, 4015 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22203. You are encouraged to submit comments on a computer disk or via e-mail to along with an original hard copy or via telefax to: 703-235-5551.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carol Jones, Acting Director, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, 703-235-1910.


I. Background

Miners wear breathing apparatus known as self-rescue devices to exit a mine during emergencies such as fires, explosions, or other incidents which contaminate the environment. There are two types of self-rescue devices used in underground mines. A filter self-rescue device (FSR) removes hazardous carbon monoxide through filtration of the mine air. A self-contained self-rescue device (SCSR) is a closed- circuit breathing apparatus that isolates the users' lungs providing breathable air. Because an SCSR functions in a closed circuit, all contaminants in the surrounding mine air can be eliminated from the air the miner is breathing.

MSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) held a joint self-rescue conference in Beckley, West Virginia on June 15 and 16, 1999. The conference provided an opportunity for an exchange of information between the agencies, self-rescuer manufacturers, mining industry representatives and labor representatives on a range of topics involving self-rescue devices. The participants addressed a number of significant self-rescue device issues. The discussion also raised additional questions for the Agency to consider. Following the conference, MSHA personnel met to consider the issues raised and the views expressed at the conference. With this advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), we are requesting the mining community to comment on issues developed at the conference and other issues raised by MSHA. It is our hope that by hearing the views of the mining community early in our rulemaking process we can formulate a workable approach to addressing self-rescuer issues that will best protect the safety of miners.

We have already announced in the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda published in April, 1999 that we intend to develop a proposed rule to address self-rescue devices. We will consider the comments we receive as a result of this ANPRM in developing the proposed rule.

II. Issues We Ask You To Consider in Your Comments

1. There have been some instances where self-rescue devices were not donned properly in an emergency. In addition, there are studies which show that a person's ability to retain the knowledge and skills necessary to properly don a self-rescuer decreases significantly over time.

[[Page 36633]] 2. Some of the concerns with self-rescue devices were discovered only after the units were deployed in mines. The self-rescue devices are subjected to harsh in-mine use conditions and stored in a rugged environment that could contribute to a device not functioning as intended. 3. International Standards
Self-rescuer manufacturers sell their products in international markets. Yet, each country has its own approval criteria which limits the potential for a free market. 4. There have been questions about the interpretation of the existing rule as it relates to storage plans and how the rule is being applied in the various MSHA Districts. 5. Over the years questions have come up concerning the distance from the miner that self-rescuers are stored in coal mines and the ability of the miners to reach the devices in a timely manner in the event of an emergency. 6. The devices currently required in metal and nonmetal mines are FSRs. SCSRs can be successfully used in a wider variety of mine emergencies than FSRs, and therefore are considered superior to FSRs. In 1987, MSHA began to require SCSRs in certain category V-A gassy metal and nonmetal mines (Sec. 57.22315). III. Impact

Executive Order 12866 requires that regulatory agencies assess both the costs and benefits of intended regulations, and propose regulations on the basis that the benefits justify the costs. Regulatory agencies also are required to base decisions on the best reasonably obtainable scientific, technical, economic, and other data and information concerning the need for and the consequences of the proposed regulations.

We are exploring the development of a proposed rule addressing self-rescue devices. We anticipate that the benefit would be the prevention of fatalities which may occur if these devices are not used or not used as intended.

IV. Public Participation

We request comments on the specific issues addressed in this ANPRM. You are encouraged to be as specific as possible in addressing the issues and in suggesting alternatives. We also request that you include specific examples and cost estimates where possible to support your rationale. This will assist us in evaluating and analyzing your comments.

List of Subjects in 30 CFR Part 75

Mine safety and health, Underground mining.

Dated: June 29, 1999.
J. Davitt McAteer,
Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health.
[FR Doc. 99-17092 Filed 7-6-99; 8:45 am]

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