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Thomas D. Barkand
U.S. Department of Labor
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA 15236

    Mine hoists and elevators have experienced accidents with the potential for injuring or killing numerous miners. These accidents occurred on counterweighted hoisting systems when the mechanical drum brake failed while the cage was empty. This allowed the counterweight to fall to the bottom of the shaft, causing the cage to overspeed and crash into the headframe.

    The recent revelation of this potential hazard has prompted regulatory authorities to require an additional, independent, emergency braking system. As a result of this initiative, a new generation of emergency braking systems has been developed and applied to mine hoists.

    This paper will discuss the United States mine hoist inventory, accident statistics, revised hoisting regulations, and emergency braking systems designed to provide ascending conveyance overspeed protection. The design and testing of a passive electrical dynamic brake installed on a slope hoist and a case-study report on a pneumatic rope brake installed and tested on a single rope, vertical shaft mine hoist will be discussed.

The United States coal industry employed 114,000 workers to produce 904 million metric tons of coal in 1991.(1) There were 285 coal mines utilizing 218 hoists and 204 elevators. The coal mine operators reported 124 hoisting accidents resulting in 3 injuries.(2)

The United States metal and nonmetal mining production during the same year was valued at 30.8 billion dollars and employed a work force of 127,000.(1) The 116 United States metal and non-metal mines utilized 310 hoists. These hard rock mining industries reported 94 hoisting accidents resulting in 15 injuries.(3)

The statistics for 1991 are typical of recent years and reflect a good safety record with relatively few injuries and rarely a fatality related to hoisting operations. However, there have been two well documented investigations of mine hoisting systems crashing in the upward direction with the potential for injuring or killing numerous miners.(4),(5) These accidents occurred on counterweighted hoisting systems when the mechanical drum brake failed while the electrical power was off and the cage was empty. This allowed the counterweight to fall to the bottom of the shaft, causing the car to overspeed and crash into the overhead structure.

Accident: Coal Mine Friction Hoist
December 1977, the personnel hoist cage at Island Creek Coal VP-5 Mine crashed into the headframe at 4734 ft/min. or 53.8 miles/hour. The cage was unoccupied at the time of the accident and no injuries were reported. This semi-automatic hoist had been called to the surface but did not start to move after the brakes were released. The hoist operator noticed this abnormal behavior and depressed the emergency stop button which disconnected the drive motor and should have set the drum brake. However, the brake did not set and the cage began to accelerate at 3 times its normal rate causing a temporary ventilation reversal in the intake air shaft. The hoist operator began to frantically open circuit breakers to disconnect power to the hoist control in an attempt to stop the hoist. The hoist cage collided into the headframe at about the same time the master circuit breaker was opened which ultimately set the brakes. This hoist has been placed into service approximately 1 year prior to the accident. The accident broke the four suspension ropes and severely damaged the sheave wheel and upper portion of the headframe. The hoist drum was also pulled from its mounting base and a portion of the hoist house roof was torn off. The hoist was out of service for 6 months while repair work was performed.

Accident: Coal Mine Elevator
On February 4, 1987, the automatic elevator car at the Duquesne Light Company's Warwick Mine No. 3 North Portal crashed into the headframe at 2118 ft/min. (24 miles/hour) or 3 times faster than normal. The elevator was unoccupied at the time of the accident. The brake lining failed and was torn away from the brake drum. The car governor tripped, but was unable to set the safety catches in the ascending direction. When the elevator collided into the headframe, the car tilted forward and the car doors sprung open facing directly down the 400 ft. shaft.

Accidents: Commercial and Industrial Elevators
The mining industry accidents were initially believed to be isolated incidents. However, research covering a 5-year period, showed there were at least 17 documented cases of commercial and industrial elevators striking the overhead structure.(6) In fact, survey data indicate that for 90% of the hoisting cycles, the elevator is empty or lightly loaded making the counterweight heavier than the conveyance.(7) Consequently, if the main brake fails there are 9 in 10 chances the conveyance will accelerate and crash in the upward direction.

Rules and regulations applying to hoist and elevator safety have come under review in response to these accidents. The providence of Ontario in Canada requires all new commercial and industrial geared elevators to be equipped with a device to provide ascending overspeed protection and also guard against uncontrolled movement of the conveyance. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety has required ascending car overspeed protection on all new and existing coal mine hoisting systems, effective December 1, 1991. As a result of these initiatives, a new generation of braking systems has been developed and applied to mine elevators and hoists. Attention has been focused primarily on elevators which are equipped with multiple ropes.

Several supplemental emergency braking systems have been applied to mine elevators. Some of the proven systems are counterweight safeties, electrical dynamic braking, and a pneumatic rope brake system. The applications of these braking systems to multiple rope elevators are discussed in other literature.(8),(9) This paper discusses the application of passive dynamic braking and a suspension rope brake on single rope mine hoists.

One U.S. hoist manufacturer has installed passive dynamic braking systems on several coal mine slope hoists. This case study will discuss the dynamic brake installed on a typical ground mounted hoist which operates unbalanced on a 15.3 degree slope. The drum is designed to wind a 1-7/8 inch hoist rope in three layers. The drive is arranged for a static controlled single direct current motor drive through a 62:1 gear reducer. The controls are either semi-automatic or manual by operation from the control panel.

Hoist Mechanical and Electrical Specifications

Hoist Distance : 1850 ft.
D.C. Motor


450 Horsepower, 460 Volts DC,
765 Amperes, 650/1300 rpm
Drum Diameter


108 Inches First Wrap
111.6 Inches Second Wrap
115.1 Inches Third Wrap
Hoist Rope : 1-7/8 inch diameter
Normal Load : 70,000 lbs.
Maximum Load : 140,000 lbs. @ 300 fpm
Personnel Car : 18,000 lbs.
Weight of Rope : 9,600 lbs. @ 5.19 lbs./feet
Speed of Hoist : 600 fpm (max.)
Speed of Drum : 20.8 rpm @ 607.5 fpm
Hoist Brakes : Drum Brake and Motor Brake
Controller : One - Lilly Controller
Safety Catches : Electromagnetic Brake Shoes

During normal hoist operation, the regenerative braking capacity of the drive motor is utilized to slow the hoist down to creep speed. Safe limits for acceleration and deceleration have been established by the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations for metal and nonmetal mining. The maximum normal acceleration or deceleration shall not exceed 6 ft/s2. A dynamic braking resistor provides emergency backup protection in the event that the mechanical braking system fails. As previously mentioned, the hoist motor can act as a generator to slow the hoist down to creep speed during a normal stop. However, during emergency stopping the motor's retarding effort is not utilized unless a dynamic braking resistor is properly installed. Dynamic Braking System Design
There are many dynamic braking system designs that can be incorporated into mine hoist control. This particular dynamic braking system provided protection in the event that both the control system power and drum brake failed simultaneously. A one-line diagram of the system is shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. One Line Diagram of a DB Control System

The loss of the control system power to the field is detected by the field loss (FL) relay. This transfers the drive system into the dynamic braking mode by de-energizing the field loss and the dynamic braking (DB) relay. The drum brake is also set during a control power loss. If during a control system shutdown, the drum brake should fail, the overhauling load will cause the motor to be driven as a generator supplying braking current into the dynamic braking resistor and field current to the shunt field. The dynamic braking resistor would dissipate the energy generated by the overhauling load, and the load would be lowered at a safe, slow speed. Thus a "runaway" condition would be prevented. It is important to remember that dynamic braking does not stop the load like the drum brake, but rather is designed to limit the speed to a small percentage of the base motor speed.

Dynamic Braking Tests
The dynamic braking system was tested under two different conditions. The first method of testing the dynamic braking resistor was to interrupt the control power while temporarily holding the drum brake in the released position with the hoist traveling at rated speed. The hoist immediately slowed down from the initial speed of 300 ft/min to 100 ft/min and continue at this speed until the drum brake was set, thereby stopping the hoist.

The most demanding test of the dynamic braking system occurs when the drum brake fails after a prolonged power interruption has occurred. The dc hoist motor must generate its own shunt field current. For this test, the control power was removed while the conveyance was at rest. Then the drum brake was released and the conveyance accelerated down the slope at an initial rate of 0.4 ft/s2. The data obtained from this test procedure is shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2. Dynamic Brake Test Data: Empty Brake Car
and Supply Car (24,000 lbs. total), Down

As the hoist approached base motor speed, 300 ft/min, armature current began to develop as the armature windings rotated rapidly through the weak residual magnetic field of the permanently magnetized field poles. The armature current, in turn, supplied current to the motor field through the dynamic braking resistor. The field quickly built up to 90 percent of its normal operating level. Once the field was established, the hoist rapidly decelerated to 100 ft/min. The final dynamic braking speed of this system was 33 percent of the base motor speed. This dynamic braking system effectively provided additional backup protection to the hoist. It would activate in the event of multiple system failures and prevent a high speed runaway condition on the hoist.

Compound Braking
The drum brake and the dynamic brake operate simultaneously when control power is lost resulting in compound braking. However, this is not a problem since the machine brake does not decelerate the hoist initially due to the inherent mechanical dead time. After this initial delay, the machine brake provides a smooth linear deceleration.

The dynamic braking system begins retarding the hoist immediately, since the motor contactor connects a resistor across the motor armature instead of opening the circuit and allowing the conveyance to accelerate downward. The dynamic braking effort diminishes as the speed decreases. Therefore, dynamic braking is an excellent system to assist the mechanical brake, since the dynamic brake produces the greatest deceleration during the drum brake dead time and provides very little retardation as the drum brake brings the hoist to a stop.

The electrical dynamic braking system is inherently unaffected by the number of suspension ropes and has been successfully applied to single rope mine hoists. However, the application of a rope brake on a single rope hoist has presented technical challenges. The next case study will discuss the control, design, and testing of the world's first application of a suspension rope brake to a single rope mine hoist.

The first installation of a Bode rope brake [1] on a single rope mine hoist was evaluated January 30-31, 1992. The pneumatic rope brake was installed on a ground mounted hoist which operates with a cage in balance with a counterweight in a vertical shaft as shown in Fig. 3. The drum is designed to wind an "under" and "over" 1-1/2 inch flattened strand hoist rope in a single layer. The drum is helically grooved to wind 20.4 live turns, 6 dead and 6 cutting turns, plus 4 turns between ropes. The drive is arranged for a SCR controlled single D.C. motor drive through a double reduction reducer. The controls are either semi-automatic or manual by operation from the control panel. This hoist was accepted by the federal and state regulatory agencies on April 12-13, 1984.

Fig. 3. Coal Mine Hoist

Hoist Mechanical and Electrical Specifications

Hoist Distance : 571 Ft. - Personnel/Materials
D.C. Motor
300 Horsepower, 500 Volts DC, 490 Amperes, 400 rpm
Drum : 110 Inches Diameter x 58 Inches Face
Hoist Ropes : Two - 1-1/2" Flattened Strand, 6 x 30 Fiber
Core, Galvanized, Preformed, Lang Lay,
Breaking Strength 235,000 lbs.
Personnel Load : 7,875 lbs.
Material Load : 10,750 lbs.
Weight of Cage : 13,000 lbs. (Empty)
Weight of

: 7,250 lbs.
Weight of Rope : 4,700 lbs. @ 3.95 lbs./feet
Speed of Hoist : 600 fpm
Speed of Motor : 467 rpm @ 600 fpm
Speed of Drum : 20.55 rpm @ 600 fpm
WR2 of Hoist : 1,098,340 lbs. - ft2
Drum Brakes


Four - Disc Brake Units, Spring
Applied Pressure Released, Two
Discs, Two Units Per Disc

One - Model "C" Lilly Controller
Man Safety
Safety Catches


Instantaneous Type, Activated by
Slack or Broken Rope

Rope Brake Design
The rope brake grips the suspension ropes and stops the hoist when an overspeed of 15% is detected or the cage moves away from the landing when it is not under control of the hoist motor.

The pneumatic design of the model 580 rope brake is illustrated in Fig. 4. When the rope brake is activated, a set of magnetic valves direct pressurized air from the compressor tank into the rope brake cylinder. The air pushes the piston inside the rope brake cylinder and forces a movable brake pad toward a stationary brake pad. The suspension rope is clamped between the two brake pads. The rope brake is released by energizing the magnetic valves, which vent the pressurized rope brake cylinder to the atmosphere through a blowout silencer. The brake pads are forced open by six coil springs.

Fig. 4. Rope Brake Design

The force exerted on the suspension rope equals the air pressure multiplied by the surface area of the piston. The rope brake model number 580 designates the inner diameter of the brake cylinder in millimeters. This translates into 409.36 in2 of surface area. The working air pressure is set at 120 lbf/in2. The corresponding force applied to the suspension rope is 49,123 lbs.

Rope Brake Installation
The rope brake was installed in a control room constructed in the hoist headframe directly below the cage suspension rope sheave as shown in Fig. 5. The control room contains the complete rope brake system, including the rope brake, control logic, and air compressor. Heaters were installed in the rope brake control room to regulate the temperature during cold weather operation.

Fig. 5. Rope Brake Installation

Rope Brake Modifications
The mechanical design of the rope brake was modified for this application to a single hoist rope in addition to the modifications previously presented.(9) The rope pulse tachometer wheel diameter was increased to provide a smoother operation on the relatively rough surface of the hoist rope, compared to a typical elevator rope.

A suspension rope guide, shown at the top of Fig. 6, was added above the rope pulse tachometer to prevent the slack rope from damaging the rope tachometer. A slack rope condition is generated by the two-month safety catch test, required by Mine Safety and Health Administration regulations contained in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 30 §75.1400.

Fig. 6. Rope Brake, Top View

The thickness of each rope brake lining was also increased from 3/8 inch for typical elevator installations, to 3/4 inch for this hoist installation. The increased thickness of the brake lining material was required to allow for the greater wear demand due to increased rope abrasion, limited contact area on a single rope, and increased conveyance load. The additional brake lining also reduces the possibility of the 1-1/2 inch hoist suspension rope becoming damaged if the brake lining wears completely down to the brake pad mounting plates, since the combined thickness of the two linings is 1-1/2 inches. The brake lining wear characteristics will be discussed later.

The final modification was the addition of the brake pad guide shown in Fig. 7. The "L" shaped, pivoting steel plates on each side of the rope brake insures the brake pads remained parallel to each other. This prevents the original guides from binding or the brake piston from seizing when the brake is applied to the single suspension rope which is not directly in the center line of the rope brake.

Fig. 7. Rope Brake, Side View

Rope Brake Tests and Results
The integrity of the existing hoist safety system was verified prior to performing any rope brake tests. The hoist emergency stopping, safety catches, overspeed and overtravel protection were dynamically tested. This procedure was essential to assure the safe completion of the rope brake test agenda.

A series of tests were then conducted to evaluate the performance of the rope brake under extreme loading conditions and multiple control system faults. The compound braking effect on the deceleration rate was also evaluated. Compound braking occurs when the rope brake and the hoist brake operate simultaneously.

Average Hoist Deceleration Rates The rope brake and the compound braking deceleration rates are shown in Table 1. The four test conditions represent the extreme hoist loading conditions for all possible directions of travel. The braking systems were activated at the rated speed of 600 ft/min. The rope brake experiences an inherent brake dead time of approximately 300 msec, which is similar to the hoist drum brake.

The deceleration rates of each braking system cannot be added algebraically to yield the compound deceleration rate because of the mechanical time delay and the non-linear characteristics of the rope brake deceleration. For example, the machine brake will stop the empty cage traveling downward at an average deceleration rate of 7.3 ft/s2. Table 1 shows the rope brake deceleration under this condition is 4.0 ft/s2. However, the compound braking deceleration rate is 8.7 ft/s2, not 11.3 ft/s2.

The accepted maximum value for emergency deceleration is 16.1 ft/s2 (0.5g). Limiting emergency decelerations to rates less than 0.5g will minimize the possibility of injuring the passengers on the hoist. As shown in Table 1, the compound braking effort did not exceed 16.1 ft/s2 (0.5g) for any possible condition.

Cage Load
Rope Brake
Compound Braking
Empty Up 3.2 8.0
Empty Down 4.0 8.7
10,750 Up 5.3 9.5
10,750 Down 1.7 5.9

Typical Test Recording Fig. 8 shows the thermal array chart recording when the rope brake was applied, while the mechanical brake was held off. The cage was empty and traveling at the rated speed of 600 ft/min, in the ascending direction.

Fig. 8. Chart Recording from Rope Brake Test;
Empty Cage, Ascending Direction, Rated Speed

The hoist speed and armature voltage signal demonstrate the initial acceleration that typically occurs when the armature current is interrupted before the rope brake develops sufficient braking effort to decelerate the falling counterweight. The curved speed deceleration profile shows the braking force is inversely related to the speed of the hoist. This observation is consistent with previously reported findings on multiple rope elevators.(9)

The oscillation in the cage acceleration signal typically occurs when the rope brake stops the hoist. The oscillations are attributed to the elasticity of the suspension rope. The oscillations are also reflected into the hoist drum as shown by the drum acceleration signal. The inverse speed braking effort is indicated by the increasing deceleration shown in the drum acceleration signal.

Rope Brake Hold Test A one-hour rope brake hold test was conducted to evaluate the static braking capacity and to verify the integrity of the pneumatic system. The test was conducted by first setting the rope brake while the hoist was stationary with 125% of rated load (13,437 lbs.) on the cage. The air pressure in the compressor tank was then completely discharged. The rope brake remained set, due to a check valve in the air supply line. The rope brake must hold the load for one hour with no more than a 1 percent air pressure drop in the rope brake cylinder.

Slack rope was generated above the cage by operating the hoist in the down direction with the rope brake set. The rope brake held the static overload (cage + 125% load + rope = 28,692 lbs.) for one hour. During that time, the rope brake cylinder air pressure dropped from 104 to 103 psi.

The force applied by the rope brake at 103 psi is 42,164 lbs. This easily held the static load of 28,692 lbs. The rope brake should be able to hold the static load with only 70 psi of cylinder air pressure.

Rope Brake Lining Wear The testing sequence called for the four empty cage tests in Table 1 to be performed followed by the remaining four rated load (10,750 lbs.) tests. After the four empty cage tests were performed, a total of 0.5 inch of the brake lining material had been worn away. The remaining four load tests wore away 0.344 inch. (The rope brake only test, 10,750 lbs., down, 600 ft/min. accounted for 0.281 inch of the brake wear.) The remaining 0.656 inch of brake lining material was insufficient for the rated load, overspeed test which is discussed next.

Rope Brake Overspeed Tests The most demanding test on the agenda was the overspeed activation of the rope brake at rated cage load (10,750 lbs.) in the descending direction. The hoist speed was increased gradually until the rope brake sensed the overspeed and activated the rope brake at 702 ft/min. The hoist accelerated to 790 ft/min. before the rope brake began to develop braking effort. The hoist began to decelerate at a rate of 1.8 ft/s2. When the hoist slowed down to 280 ft/min., the 0.656 inch of brake lining had worn completely away and the brake pad surfaces made contact. Without the braking effort, the hoist began to accelerate until the hoist brake was set at 750 ft/min.

The brake linings were replaced with a different material and the test was repeated on February 3, 1992. The hoist stopping distance was 75 ft. with an average deceleration of 1.1 ft/s2. However, about 90 percent of the 1-1/2 inch thick brake lining material was worn away by the rope during the test. The replacement brake lining material may not have provided the same wear characteristics as the original material.

Rope Lubrication Since this hoist is not friction driven, the suspension rope can be protected by applying lubrication without causing rope slippage on the hoist drum. The lubrication presents a technical challenge not previously encountered when the rope brake was installed on friction driven elevators. The rope lubricant may have increased the stopping distances, which resulted in additional heat generation as the rope pulled through the applied rope brake.

Test Summary
The rope brake successfully detected several overspeed conditions and stopped the conveyance. However, the rope brake lining wore out after a single stop in the descending direction. A brake wear switch must be added to prohibit hoist operation when insufficient brake lining is present.

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety has initially denied approval of the rope brake installed on the mine hoist. The decision was based on brake lining wear criteria established on previous elevator installations.

CONCLUSIONS Mining industry accidents indicate a strong need for supplemental ascending overspeed protection on personnel hoisting systems. Passive dynamic braking is a proven method of providing the supplemental overspeed protection on DC mine hoists. Additional emergency braking systems must be developed to improve the safety of mine hoisting systems.



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Rutherford R.P. United States Department of Labor. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Metal and Nonmetal Hoisting Accidents. [50.2(h)(11),30 CFR], Forth Quarter, 1991. May 19, 1992.

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