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Portable Mine Refuge Chambers Physiological and Psychological Evaluation FY09

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


  • Portable mine refuge chambers have been approved for use in West Virginia coal mines. Section 13 of the MINER Act 2006 provides for NIOSH to conduct research, including field tests in their underground mine, on the use of refuge chambers in underground coal mines.
  • The Research Physiology Lab at NPPTL has been asked to conduct human subject testing to determine the overall habitability of the chamber for a nominal 96 hour occupation. The testing will involve physiological and psychological evaluations and the development of training modalities.

Applicable Standards

  • MINER Act 2006
  • MSHA proposed rule

Key Partners

  • Pittsburgh Research Lab
  • United Mine Workers
  • MSHA



  • Mine workers
  • Rescue teams
  • Mine companies
  • Labor unions
  • State of West Virginia
  • Portable Mine Refuge Chamber manufacturers

Project Scope

  • Phase 1 Selection of appropriate chambers from list of those being used in West Virginia coal mines.
  • Phase 2 Protocol development for human subject testing
  • Phase 3 Protocol peer-review and Human Subject Review Board review and approval.
  • Phase 4 Recruiting of subjects and conduct of testing
  • Phase 5 Final Report/manuscripts


  • Q1 Address peer-review and HSRB comments and modify protocol
  • Q2 Receive HSRB approval to conduct protocol with human subjects
  • Q3 Conduct 96 hour engineering evaluation of chamber in coal mine environment and Begin human physiology chamber test
  • Q4 Begin physiology/psychology data analysis


  • Physiological and psychological data on the habitability of mine refuge chamber
  • Performance data on chambers being tested with human subjects
  • Presentations at national/international conferences
  • Manuscripts published in peer-reviewed journals


  • Findings from the study are used to support or change recommendations, standards, and federal/state regulations on portable mine refuge chambers
Page last updated: April 05, 2010
Page last reviewed: April 14, 2009
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
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