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District 3 - Coal Mine Safety and Health
Safety Practices and Equipment for Roof Bolters

District 3 has targeted the roof bolter occupation for special emphasis concerning reducing accidents. Many accidents are occurring due to the drilling process. Most drill heads are equipped with a deep chuck in order to encourage hands off drilling. Unfortunately, when mine roof is not uniform, human nature takes over and the drill operator places his/her hand on the drill steel during initial installation. This type of accident can be prevented. The root cause of these accidents may be identified as:

Best Practices

Use a starter steel ranging from 8 to 12 inches to start the first drill hole. Three significant benefits result from using starter steels: First, it will never be necessary to place hands on the drill steel. Second, it ensures that the operator will always start a straight drill hole since the shorter steel will not bend, and last, the second drill steel will self-center in the starter hole ensuring that the drill steels do not get hung up. Using starter steels saves time and prevents accidents.

Many accidents are occurring trying to dislodge the drill steel or are occurring when the worker strikes his/her hand with the wrench while attempting to unplug the drill steel. Also, the immediate roof is not loosened while trying to recover the dislodged drill steel. As the worker focuses on getting the drill steel free, the loose roof strikes him/her. Starter steels have eliminated these types of accidents where the starter steel has been reinvented.

A metacarpal glove policy for roof bolters is also a viable way to reduce accidents for the roof bolter occupation. One operator has purchased arm guards in addition to the metacarpal gloves and integrated the use of starter steels. The result has been the elimination of the root causes and a reduction to zero accidents.