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Mining Project: Self-Escape from Underground Coal Mines Training Initiative

Principal Investigator
  • Cassandra Hoebbel, NIOSH OMSHR, 412-386-6133
Start Date10/1/2014

To characterize the essential components of the mine emergency escape system and develop interventions designed to improve system preparedness and self-escape training of underground coal mining personnel.

Topic Area

Research Summary

This project has four research aims, as follows:

  1. Identify and prioritize critical self-escape KSAOs (knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics) to improve understanding of the components of the mine emergency escape system (e.g., individual miners, escape teams, responsible person teams, communication centers, etc.) and the relationships among them.
  2. Explore current levels of miner competence in the critical KSAOs, identify gaps in currently available methods to train and assess those KSAOs, and develop strategies to fill identified gaps.
  3. Design, develop, and deliver training interventions to improve the functioning of the mine emergency escape system and isolate variables of interest for analysis and future work.
  4. Provide evidence-based guidelines to the mining industry to optimize the functioning of the mine emergency escape system.

The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 was enacted to strengthen existing mine emergency response safety and health regulations, and it introduced new provisions related to written emergency response plans, underground communication and tracking systems, and the presence of a “responsible person” at each mine on each shift. To date, there has been no thorough exploration of the status of, and best practices for, the implementation and follow-through of these mandates.

This project seeks to enhance our understanding of the mine emergency escape system and provide the industry with evidence-based strategies to improve the function of this system. Mine emergencies occur infrequently and rarely at the same operation, so this effort will require an industry-wide approach. The work includes activities in physical and psychological task analyses of self-escape competencies; the exploration and description of the current state of select elements related to the mine emergency response system required by law; competency training and assessment needs analysis; and training development.

Positive outcomes of this project will lead to more standardized training and assessment throughout the industry, a more prepared workforce, and could inform legislative and policy discussions related to self-escape training requirements.