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Mining Program Area: Breathing Air Supplies


The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) has launched a program to develop the next generation of Breathing Air Supplies (BAS) for use in escape, rescue, and shelter during a mine emergency. Some examples of BAS are Self-Contained Self-Rescuers (SCSRs), Closed-Circuit Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (CCBAs), and gas supplies for refuge alternatives.  The MINER Act mandated that work be done to improve “oxygen supplies,” and advanced BAS technology could improve a mine worker’s chances of surviving a mine disaster.

The program seeks to answer the following questions: Can new technology be developed to improve BAS in underground mine environments? Can technology in other areas (e.g., space program, underwater life support technologies) be used to improve BAS in underground mine environments?


OMSHR has engaged on a Breathing Air Partnership with representatives from industry, labor, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Through this partnership, OMSHR has been able to coordinate with all stakeholder groups regarding the many complexities associated with advancing breathing air supply technologies. These range from projected regulatory and performance standards concerns to the lack of a single commercial entity capable of advancing this technology through a simple contract. Therefore, OMSHR’s approach is to use a multifaceted development effort coordinating interagency agreements (e.g., NASA, Naval Research Labs) and contracts with various commercial entities that specialize in this field to address the critical design issues for improving BAS. A unique feature of this approach is to identify and target sub-components for necessary improvements in breathing air technology and direct development/ fabrication for future integration into different BAS products/ systems. By incorporating input from experienced agencies that have specialized in providing life support for humans working in irrespirable atmospheres for decades and by directing experienced contractors on single sub-components with specific guidelines for its design, OMSHR believes the ultimate result will capitalize on the maximum benefit from all existing relevant technologies and will be vastly improved from past attempts to advance breathing air technologies in underground mines.

This development effort is expected to take 3 to 5 years and result in technology demonstrations incorporating improvements in BAS products and systems for manufacturers to reference when launching the next generation of BAS.

Projects & Contracts

TitleContractorContract/IAG #Start DateDescription
Cryogenic Life Support Technology Development ProjectNASA Kennedy Space Center12FED12132597/1/2012An interagency agreement to develop cryogenic breathing apparatus and supply/filling systems for mine escape, rescue, and refuge.
Development of an improved mine escape breathing apparatus through efficiency improvement study of current self-rescuersNaval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division13FED13133014/15/2013An interagency agreement to reduce the size, weight, and ergonomic impact of SCSRs.
Efficiency Improvement Study of Mine Rescue Breathing Apparatus and Development of an Improved Prototype CCBANaval Sea Systems Command12FED12133147/1/2012An interagency agreement to investigate alternative system designs or current system modifications for mine rescue breathing apparatus, to determine the extent of potential efficiency improvements.
Extending and Monitoring the Scrubber Performance in Escape and Rescue Mining RebreathersNavy Experimental Diving Unit12FED12133258/15/2012An interagency agreement to extend and monitor the scrubber performance in escape and rescue mining rebreathers.
New Vest Style Escape SCSR Through SCSR Efficiency Improvement StudyNavy Experimental Diving Unit12FED12132446/1/2012An interagency agreement to investigate efficiency improvements for pure oxygen breathing apparatuses used by miners in emergencies, namely SCSRs, and to develop an improved ergonomically designed SCSR.
TitleContractorContract/IAG #Start DateDescription
Development of both a Dockable and Hybrid Person-Wearable Self-Contained Self-RescuerTechnical Products, Inc.200-2007-195692/6/2007A contract to help develop and evaluate Person Wearable Dockable and Hybrid SCSRs that will meet the requirements of 42 CFR Part 84, Federal Mining Regulations, as well as any that will result from the MINER Act.
Development of Components for Breathing Escape Apparatus (DSOV)Avon Protection Systems, Inc.200-2012-527888/29/2012A contract to deliver working prototypes of docking and switch-over valves that will be used in the next generation of escape breathing apparatus.
Development of Components for Breathing Escape Apparatus (DSOV/HMC)Essex Industries, Inc.200-2012-528798/24/2012A contract to deliver working prototypes of docking/switch-over valves and hoods/masks with passive communication elements that will be used in the next generation of escape breathing apparatus.
Development of Components for Breathing Escape Apparatus (DSOV/HMC/VHPC)Carleton Technologies, Inc.200-2012-526249/1/2012A contract to deliver working prototypes of docking/ switch-over valves and hoods/masks with passive communication elements that will be used in the next generation of escape breathing apparatus.
Smart Escape SCBAAvon Protection Systems200-2011-406879/12/2011A contract to develop a “smart” self-contained open circuit breathing apparatus (SCBA) that protects against threat gasses and provides an extended duration of life-sustaining oxygen inhale stream by monitoring the surrounding atmosphere. The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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