State-of-the-art longwall roof supports provide effective strata control, but failures of these support systems still occur. To identify failure mechanisms and the impact these failures have on the safety of the support system, the U.S. Bureau of Mines has been conducting research on shield mechanics in the Bureau's unique mine roof simulator, as well as field studies of in situ support loading and investigations of longwall failures. Three types of failures are discussed: (1) inadequate support capacity, (2) structural failure, and (3) instability. Hypothetical situations with proposed courses of action and case studies of actual longwall failures are described. This information is intended to assist the Mine Safety and Health Administration and industry mining personnel in safety evaluations of longwall roof support systems.