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Mining Contract: Development of an improved mine escape breathing apparatus through efficiency improvement study of current self-rescuers

Contract #13FED1313301
Start Date4/15/2013
Research Concept

A new mine escape breathing apparatus is needed for self-contained self-rescuers to increase user comfort and improve ergonomics.

Topic Area

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is ongoing.

This contract was funded as part of an interagency agreement program, which provides a formal means for federal government agencies to share and further technology that could apply to and benefit mine safety and health. OMSHR identifies other government agencies with the knowledge, skills, and abilities relevant to a health and safety gap and works collaboratively with these agencies to identify the type of technology solution desired and to determine specifications for this technology.

Following a catastrophic event, mine workers and rescue teams may be exposed to harmful gases in the mine atmosphere. Breathing air supplies (BAS) technologies are used to isolate the lungs from this atmosphere or provide refuge alternatives where the atmosphere is controlled. Breathing air supplies for underground mining refer to a range of devices and systems that offer respiratory protection to miners in the event of an emergency. Some examples of BAS are self-contained self-rescuers (SCSRs), closed-circuit oxygen breathing apparatus (CCBAs), and gas supplies for refuge alternatives. Advanced BAS technology could improve a mine worker’s chances of surviving a mine disaster.

SCSRs help to facilitate self-rescue in the event of a contaminated or low-oxygen mine environment. These devices are usually worn on the miner's belt and can be a burden because they are carried at all times while workers perform their normal duties in the mine. Therefore, it is desirable to reduce the size, weight, and ergonomic impact of the device for the user’s benefit.

This contract was awarded to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, which has expertise in development and testing of diving equipment. Research under this contract will inspect and assess the design of existing SCSR systems, determine where significant improvements can be made, and produce a proof-of-concept SCSR and field-capable prototype.

As of 2014, the first prototype of a new, more ergonomic SCSR has been built and is being tested.