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Activities: NIOSH Research Projects

The NIOSH Mining Program Portfolio includes the following research projects categorized by the primary Strategic Goal addressed:

Strategic Goal 1 - Reduce Respiratory Diseases

Reduce respiratory diseases in miners by reducing health hazards in the workplace associated with coal worker pneumoconiosis, silicosis, and diesel emissions.

Aerosol Exposure Assessment

Purpose: Reduce respirable dust- and diesel-related health concerns by developing portable, mine-worthy devices capable of providing timely measurement of coal and silica dust, diesel aerosols, and other airborne contaminants. Project will end on September 30, 2009.

Researcher: Jon C. Volkwein
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Particulate Measurement and Characterization in Mining

Purpose: Reduce health threats to mine workers by developing real-time instruments for use by the mining industry to monitor respirable coal and silica dust and diesel aerosols present in the mine air. Project will begin on October 1,2009.

Researcher: Jon C. Volkwein
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Measuring Diesel Particulate Matter in Underground Mines

Purpose: Protect miners working in underground mines from diesel-powered equipment emissions through improvements in diesel particulate emission measurement techniques. Project will end on September 30,2009.

Researcher: James D. Noll, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Controlling Respirable Dust on Continuous Mining Operations

Purpose: Develop controls that reduce silica dust exposures for operators of continuous mining machines and roof bolting machines to prevent the development of silicosis.

Researcher: Jeffrey M. Listak
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Dust Control for Longwall Mining

Purpose: Lower the risk of developing debilitating lung diseases by reducing respirable dust exposure to mine workers at longwall mining operations through the implementation of improved controls and operating practices.

Researcher: Gregory J. Chekan
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Coal Workers' Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP)

Purpose: The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (as amended by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977) is intended to protect the health and safety of underground coal miners. The Act authorizes a program for early detection and prevention of coal workers' pneumoconiosis carried out by NIOSH in cooperation with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). These activities are specified in the Federal Regulations, 42 CFR 37, "Specifications for Medical Examinations of Underground Coal Miners" and are administered through the Coal Workers' Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP).

Researcher: Anita L. Wolfe
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
Morgantown, West Virginia
304-285-5749

Evaluation and Implementation of Diesel Emission Controls

Purpose: Provide the mining industry, labor, and regulatory agencies with scientific, technical, and engineering research on controlling of diesel particulate matter (DPM) and gaseous emissions through laboratory and field evaluations of existing and emerging control technologies. Project will end on September 30, 2009.

Researcher: Steven E. Mischler
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

A Cohort Mortality Study With A Nested Case-Control Study Of Lung Cancer and Diesel Exhaust Among Non-Metal Miners

Purpose: The retrospective cohort mortality and nested case control study is investigating risk of lung cancer in relation to quantitative measures of exposure to diesel exhaust. In addition, it will determine whether there is evidence of elevated mortality from other causes among miners exposed to diesel exhaust.

Researcher: Michael Attfield, Ph.D.
Division of Respiratory Disease Studies
Morgantown, West Virginia
304-285-5749

Reducing Silica Hazards in the Metal/nonmetal Industry

Purpose: Reduce worker exposure to respirable silica dust in metal/nonmetal operations by developing improved control technologies.

Researcher: Andrew B. Cecala
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Respirable Dust Control at Surface Mines

Purpose: Improve the understanding of dust generation principles, evaluate and improve current control technologies, and develop new control technologies to provide a broad-based approach towards reducing silica exposure in surface mining operations.

Researcher: W. Randy Reed, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Ultrafine Aerosols From Diesel-Powered Equipment

Purpose: Formulate control technologies to reduce miner exposure and determine associated occupational health risks through the identification of nanometer and ultrafine aerosols emitted by diesel-powered equipment. Project will end on September 30, 2009.

Researcher: Aleksandar D. Bugarski, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Control Technologies and Strategies for Reducing Exposure of Underground Miners to Diesel Emissions

Purpose: Contemporary and emerging control technologies and strategies used to reduce the exposure of workers to diesel particulate matter (DPM) will be evaluated. In addition, a detailed characterization of physical, chemical, and toxicological properties of the diesel aerosols emitted in the mine environment will be completed. Project will start on October 1, 1009.

Researcher: Aleksandar D. Bugarski, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

State-of-the-Art Technology for Controlling Coal and Silica Dust in Mining

Purpose: Compile available dust control technologies into “best practices” handbooks to provide the mining industry will a readily available source of information on dust control. Several workshops will also be conducted to facilitate the transfer of this information to industry.

Researcher: Jay F. Colinet
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Strategic Goal 2 - Reduce Noise-induced Hearing Loss
Reduce noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in the mining industry.
Hearing Loss Prevention: Hearing Protection and Audibility Considerations

Purpose: Develop recommendations and strategies for mine operators and mineworkers that will improve the audibility of spoken communication and hazard/warning signals in the mining environment while preventing additional cases of noise-induced hearing loss. This project ends in September 2009.

Researcher: Amanda Azman
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Engineering Noise Controls for Horizontal Vibrating Screens

Purpose: Identify the dominant noise sources on horizontal vibrating screens. In addition, noise controls that focus on the noise generated by the dominant sources will be developed to reduce the sound levels generated by this type of screen by 10 dB(A). This project ends in September 2009.

Researcher: David S. Yantek
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Worker Empowerment Interventions for Hearing Loss Prevention

Purpose: Increase the effectiveness of best-practices behavioral hearing loss prevention techniques by empowering employees with prevention knowledge and skills. This will be done by identifying behavioral determinants that impact both organizational workplace processes and the resulting workforce practices that increase the potential for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). This project ends in September 2009.

Researcher: Dana C. Reinke, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Evaluation and Development of Hearing Loss Interventions

Purpose: Improve effectiveness of hearing loss prevention interventions through development, refinement, promotion, and long term evaluation. Hearing loss prevention interventions developed previously and new interventions developed in this project will be evaluated and promoted for industry-wide adoption and impact. This project starts in October 2009.

Researcher: Amanda Azman
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Engineering Noise Controls for Haul Trucks and Load Haul Dumps (LHD’s)

Purpose: Develop and evaluate engineering noise controls to eliminate noise overexposures among haul truck and LHD operators. This project starts in October 2009.

Researcher: Jeffrey Shawn Peterson
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Engineering Noise Controls for Longwall Mining Systems

Purpose: Develop and evaluate engineering noise controls to eliminate noise overexposures caused by longwall mining systems. This project starts in October 2009.

Researcher: Adam Smith
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Strategic Goal 3 - Reduce Cumulative Injuries
Reduce repetitive/cumulative musculoskeletal injuries in mine workers.
Development and Evaluation of an Ergonomics Audit Program for Mitigating Ergonomics Deficiencies in Mining

The purpose of this project is to develop and evaluate audits for three types of operations in the mining sector (bagging operations, maintenance and repair operations, haul truck operation). The audits will primarily focus on injuries due to handling materials and slips, trips and falls, but will include other ergonomics deficiencies. The primary output of the project will be three modular ergonomics audits with established reliability and validity. The goal of providing the audits is that non-ergonomists will be able to perform comprehensive computerized audits of workplace ergonomics that are not overly time-consuming or technical. This project is starting October 1, 2009.

Principal Investigator: Patrick Dempsey
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Development of Kneel-Assist Devices to Reduce the Risk of Knee Injuries while Kneeling and Crawling

The outcome of this project will be two new kneel-assist devices, a kneepad that spans the shin and a body weight support worn at the ankle. These kneel-assist devices will more effectively reduce the forces, moments, and stresses applied to the knee while in postures associated with low-seam mining compared to currently available kneepads. The increased effectiveness of the newly designed device(s) over traditional kneepads will be verified via laboratory and field testing. Furthermore, this product will be widely available to the industry as our collaborator is one the largest providers of kneepads. This project is starting October 1, 2009.

Principal Investigator: Susan Moore
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Reducing Knee Injuries in Low-seam Mining

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to reduce the likelihood of knee injuries in low seam coal miners through a systematic approach that includes the development of guidelines for improved personal protective equipment and interventions. This project is focused on underground mining, musculoskeletal disorders, protective equipment, and interventions. Guidelines for the development of knee pads and interventions that are specific to underground mining will be generated. Additionally, the tools (e.g. finite element models and musculoskeletal models) developed within the framework of this project have a multitude of future applications.

The objectives of this study are to reduce the risk of knee injury in low seam coal miners by developing guidelines to improve personal protective equipment and other interventions such as job rotation strategies, work method changes, and equipment design changes. This project is ending September 30, 2009.

Principal Investigator: Susan Moore
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Human Factors Design for Mining Equipment and Supplies

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to reduce the risk of injuries related to the design of mining equipment. Design guidelines, based on ergonomic principles and tested in the laboratory and field, will be developed and provided to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Training will also be developed that will facilitate the transfer of knowledge gained from this project to OEMs and their staff so they can better meet the needs of the mining industry. This project is ending September 30, 2009.

Principal Investigator: Patrick Dempsey
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Strategic Goal 4 - Reduce Traumatic Injuries
Reduce traumatic injuries in the mining workplace.
Underground Coal, Metal, and Nonmetal Mine Illumination Systems for Improving Miner Visual Performance

Purpose: To improve a miner’s visual performance for the recognition of safety hazards by optimizing the illuminance level, distribution, and spectral content for machine-mounted, auxiliary, and cap lamp illumination systems. This Project will begin October 1, 2009.

Principal Investigator: John Sammarco, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Reducing Underground Mining Mishaps By Improving Mine Illumination and Visibility

Purpose: To improve mine illumination such that a miner’s visual performance improves to better recognize slip/trip/fall hazards and pinning/striking hazards from moving machinery.This project will be completed September 30, 2009. The specific objectives include:

  1. Determine if solid-state lighting can be used to enhance visual performance with respect to the recognition of the hazards associated with falls of ground.
  2. Determine if visual performance, with respect to slip/trip/fall hazard recognition, is a function of the illumination system’s chromaticity (light color).
  3. Determine if visual performance, with respect to peripheral motion detection for the recognition of pinning/striking hazards, is a function of the illumination system’s chromaticity (light color).
  4. Determine if glare is a function of the illumination system’s chromaticity (light color).
  5. Determine if the unique capabilities of solid state lighting afford better lighting geometries to light hazardous areas that are inaccessible or impractical using existing mine lighting systems.
  6. Determine if auxiliary lighting can improve the detection of machine movements that could pose pinning/striking hazards or improve the detection of floor hazards.
  7. Determine if auxiliary lighting improve the detection of mine roof cracks.

Principal Investigator: John Sammarco, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Interventions to Enhance Continuous Miner Operator Safety

By taking systems that are currently being introduced into the mine environment and such as RFId tags and proximity warning systems and developing a processor controlled warning system that utilizes and enhances these in place technologies. The project will evaluate the potential and define the problems that need to be over come for a viable system. The project will begin to put in place the background for a longer term research effort focused on operator and machine sensor technologies.

Purpose: The purpose of the work in this project is to evaluate and integrate several promising sensor technologies. In addition, researchers will:

  1. Investigate promising technologies that could be used on continuous miners that could identify specific workers in the area and decide how close that individual could be before a warning or emergency shut down is initiated.
  2. evaluate types of warning systems such as the led warning work concurrently beefing developed
  3. conduct tests of prototype systems and to provide data to help guide the future efforts,
  4. investigate the problems associated with adapting new technology such as interference with communications systems
  5. begin to put in place the infrastructure for a longer term research effort on sensor technologies

Principal Investigator: John Bartels
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Emergency Communication and Tracking

Purpose: NIOSH scientists and engineers will carry out a series of tasks to investigate promising technologies that could be used in underground mine communication systems; conduct tests or prototype systems and to provide data to help guide the contractor’s development efforts; and begin to put in place the infrastructure for a longer term research effort focused on underground communication technologies. In addition, researchers will:

  • investigate promising technologies that could be used in underground mine communication systems,
  • conduct tests of prototype systems and to provide data to help guide the contractor’s development efforts,
  • investigate the safety of lithium batteries in the underground environment, and
  • begin to put in place the infrastructure for a longer term research effort focused on underground communication technologies

Principal Investigator: Tom Dubaniewicz
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Mobile Mining Equipment Warning Systems

Purpose: Reduce the number of injuries and deaths of workers who operate or work near lift trucks at mining operations.

Researcher: John Owens
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Safety Enhancements for Off-Road Haulage Trucks

Purpose: (1) Develop and test interventions that will decrease accidents involving off-highway dump trucks in surface mining operations and (2) disseminate this information to the mining industry, standard-developing organizations, and MSHA to aid in the implementation of effective interventions.

Researcher: Todd Ruff
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Safety Solutions to Prevent Mining Materials-Handling Accidents

Purpose: Prevent fatalities and injuries associated with materials handling in underground metal and nonmetal mines and in Western surface mining operations.

Researcher: Bill Stewart
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Virtual Reality for Mine Safety Training

Purpose: Create training modules for the Virtual Reality Mine Safety Training (VRMST) software developed at SRL for evaluation in training programs at operating mines.

Researcher: Timothy J. Orr
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Strategic Goal 5 - Reduce the Risk of Mine Disasters:
Reduce the risk of mine disasters (fires, explosions, and inundations); and minimize the risk to, and enhance the effectiveness of, emergency responders.
CCER Standard

Purpose: Develop certification standards for the approval of self-contained, closed-circuit breathing apparatus used for escape from atmospheres considered to be immediately dangerous to life and health.

Researcher: John G. Kovac
National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory
412-386-6111

Control and Monitoring of Methane Levels in Coal Mines

Purpose: To enhance both longwall bleeder ventilation efficiency and airflow at the tailgate, leading to improved control of longwall face emissions. This work examines ways to improve monitoring and control of methane liberated in face areas and to identify factors that increase the risk and severity of frictional ignitions.

Researcher: Robert B. Krog
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Reservoir and Neuro-simulation Based Control of Methane

Purpose: This project aims to predict methane emissions and optimize the methane control system parameters to eliminate the potential risk factors for explosions. The project will provide assistance to methane control system designers and operators in selecting design parameters by using engineered approaches

Researcher: C. Özgen Karacan, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Analysis of Belt Air Ventilation in Coal Mines

Purpose: This project examines the ventilation aspects of using belt air for ventilation in underground coal mines to reduce leakage from belt entries to intake escapeways and to improve escapeway safety. This project will develop a stopping rating system, assess the risks of using intake belt air, evaluate and compare passive techniques for improved control of the airflow in an escapeway, determine the benefits and disadvantages of using booster fans, and develop guidelines for monitoring airflow and methane gas in belt airways.

Researcher: Anu L. Martikainen, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Improving Underground Coal Mine Sealing Strategies

Purpose: Eliminate disasters from gas explosions within sealed areas of coal mines through improved engineering of the complete sealing process and better education of the mining workforce about the potential dangers posed by sealed areas.

Researcher: R. Karl Zipf, Jr., Ph.D., P.E.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Reducing Hazards of Conveyor Belt Fires in Underground Coal Mines

Purpose: To reduce the hazards of underground coal mine fires, particularly in conveyor belt entries, by applying recent technological advances in the areas of fire-resistant and fireproof belt materials, belt fire suppression systems, atmospheric monitoring systems, and computer codes for predicting and assessing in real-time the impact of fire on the mine ventilation system. The project will address the major issues concerning fires in underground coal mines; flammability of conveyor belts, detection, suppression systems, fire modeling of conveyor belts, fire modeling of contaminant spread, fire risk assessment, and training and maintenance.

Researcher: James H. Rowland
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Reducing Spontaneous Combustion Fire Hazards for Western Coal Mines

Purpose: To develop new methods to prevent, detect, control and suppress the spontaneous heating for western coal mines. Computational Fluid Dynamics modeling will be used to simulate spontaneous heating in longwall gob areas and to develop and evaluate spontaneous combustion control methods, including optimization of the ventilation system, selection of appropriate face advance rates, and techniques for early detection of spontaneous heating. CFD simulations will also be conducted to develop nitrogen injection strategies to prevent/suppress spontaneous heating in longwall gob areas.

Researcher: Liming Yuan
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Design Guidelines for Mine Ventilation Stoppings

Purpose: To develop engineering guidelines for underground mine ventilation stoppings that will help to ensure the compatibility of these structures with in-service load conditions to prevent premature failures that can lead to disastrous conditions. A secondary objective is to develop light-weight materials into satisfactory construction designs to reduce the potential of material handling injuries.

Researcher: Thomas M. Barczak, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Lake Lynn Laboratory

Purpose: Provide a modern, full-scale realistic laboratory for underground and surface research that significantly contributes to the enhancement of workplace safety and health for miners and other workers.

Researcher: Eric S. Weiss
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Long Term Field Evaluation (LTFE)

Purpose: Monitor the reliability of Self-Contained Self-Rescuers (SCSRs) deployed in U.S. underground coal mines.

Researcher: Nicholas Kyriazi
National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory
412-386-6111

Mine Rescue and Response

Purpose: Improve the state of readiness for emergency responders and increase the chances of survival for personnel escaping from underground emergencies.

Researcher: Danrick Alexander, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Prevention and Mitigation of Gas/Dust Explosions

Purpose: Reduce hazards in mining through basic and applied research on the prevention and mitigation of gas and dust explosions and the education of mining personnel on explosion hazard recognition and prevention.

Researcher: Marcia L. Harris
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Remote Methods for Addressing Coal Mine Fires

Purpose: Provide, through technology testing and improvement, more reliable remote mine fire suppression technology and to directly transfer these improvements to the coal mining industry.

Researcher: Alex C. Smith
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

SCSR Training Modules

Purpose: Enhance SCSR care, maintenance, and inspection protocol so that miners keep SCSRs in good condition and all units that fail inspections are removed from service.

Researcher: Timothy R. Rehak
National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory
412-386-6111

Strategic Goal 6 - Reduce Ground Control Injuries:
Reduce ground failure fatalities and injuries in the mining industry.

Development and Evaluation of Innovative Roof Support Technologies

Purpose: Facilitate the development of new roof support technologies through industry partnerships with various support manufacturers, and to ensure that these new support technologies meet basic safety standards before they are commercialized for use in underground mines.

Researcher: Thomas M. Barczak, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Fragmentation Methods and Ground Control Safety

Purpose: Investigate the complex relationships between fragmentation, rock scaling, ground support, and safety in mines that use drilling and blasting as the primary excavation method.

Researcher: Steve Signer
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Fundamental Studies of Factors Responsible for Falls of Ground

Purpose: Design, test, and demonstrate the potential of monitoring technologies to warn of roof fall occurrences.

Researcher: Anthony T. Iannacchione, Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Ground Stability Through Advanced Mine Design

Purpose: Reduce injuries and fatalities from ground falls in underground coal mines by developing state-of-the-art design tools for three related ground control problem areas: 1) deep cover coal pillar recovery, 2) high horizontal stress control and 3) multiple-seam mining.

Researcher: Karl Zipf, Jr., Ph.D.
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Identification and Control of Rock Burst Hazards

Purpose: Reduce ground failure and injuries associated with rock bursts (earthquakes) in deep hard-rock mines.

Researcher: Ted Williams
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Reduce Groundfall Hazards in Nevada

Purpose: Reduce groundfall injuries in Nevada underground mines excavated in weak rock masses. Develop new mining techniques using proven mine design techniques and adapting them to underground mines in weak rock.

Researcher: Lewis A Martin
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Roof Fall Evaluation and Mediation in Weak Rocks

Purpose: Reduce the number of accidents and fatalities caused by mining in weak ground by developing accurate knowledge of how roof supports perform in weak rock, how fracturing is induced by excavation in weak rock, and how best to support adequately such ground or arrest the fracturing mechanism.

Researcher: Mark K. Larson
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Slope Stability Hazards Recognition

Purpose: Reduce injuries and fatalities associated with slope failures in surface mines and falls of ground in large underground openings.

Researcher: Ed McHugh
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Stability Assessment with Seismic Monitoring

Purpose: Reduce hazards from rock mass instabilities in the underground mining workplace through (1) hazard mitigation studies that make use of seismic monitoring tools and (2) knowledge and technology transfer to industry.

Researcher: Peter Swanson, Ph.D.
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8001

Strategic Goal 7 - Surveillance and Emerging Issues
Determine the impact of changing mining conditions, new and emerging technologies, and the changing patterns of work on worker health and safety.
Health Communications Program

Purpose: Provide health communications services and guidance to SRL and PRL researchers to facilitate the continuous exchange of information and to translate research results to the widest range of customers.

Researcher: Elaine T. Cullen, Ph.D.
Spokane Research Laboratory
509-354-8057 and
David Ingram
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

Surveillance: National Survey of the Mining Population

Purpose: Improve the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) surveillance capability related to the occupational risks in mining by conducting a national survey of mines and mine employees.

Researcher: Linda J. McWilliams
Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
412-386-6601

 
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  • Page last reviewed: November 8, 2013
  • Page last updated: November 8, 2013
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