Skip directly to local search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Mining Publication: The Introduction of Roof Bolting to U.S. Underground Coal Mines (1948-1960): A Cautionary Tale

NOTE: This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

Original creation date: August 2002

Image of publication The Introduction of Roof Bolting to U.S. Underground Coal Mines (1948-1960): A Cautionary Tale

Perhaps the most significant development in coal mine ground control during the last century was the introduction of roof bolting during the late 1940's and 1950's. From an engineering standpoint, roof bolts are inherently more effective than the wood timbers they replaced. Roof bolts promised to dramatically reduce the number of roof fall accidents, which then claimed hundreds of lives each year, and they were initially hailed as "one of the great social advances of our time." Roof bolting also emerged at a time of rapid technologic transformation of the coal industry, and greatly accelerated the transition to trackless, rubber-tired face haulage. The U.S. Bureau of Mines quickly became the new roof support's strongest advocate. Some state agencies and miners were skeptical at first, but nearly everyone was soon won over. Case histories were reported showing that roof falls could be largely eliminated while productivity increased dramatically. Little wonder that, in the words of one contemporary observer, "roof bolting has been adopted more rapidly than any other new technology in the history of coal mine mechanization." Yet by the end of the 1950's, it was clear that roof fall fatality incidence rates had actually increased. It would be another decade before the superior ground support provided by roof bolts would clearly save lives. The story of how roof bolting was implemented by the mining industry, but took so long to live up to its promise, is a fascinating example of the interaction between economics, technology, regulation, and science. It still has important lessons for today.

Authors: C Mark

Conference PaperAugust - 2002

  • Adobe Acrobat - Portable Document Format (.PDF)

    3.42 MB

NIOSHTIC2 Number: 20023136

21st International Conference on Ground Control in Mining. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University, 2002 Aug; :150-160

Contact Us:
  • Office of Mine Safety and Health (OMSHR)
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • New Hours of Operation
    8am-8pm ET/Monday-Friday
    Closed Holidays
  • The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #