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Pittsburgh Research Laboratory

The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research Pittsburgh site occupies 180 acres and serves as one of two focal points for Federal mine safety and health research. The research program is based on surveillance data and stakeholder input and addresses most mining sectors, with emphasis on the safety and health hazards of mining and disaster prevention. Programmatic areas include dust (coal and silica) monitoring and control, mine ventilation, hearing loss prevention and engineering noise controls, diesel particulate monitoring and control, emergency response and rescue, firefighting and prevention, training research, ergonomics and machine safety, mine ground control, electrical safety, explosives safety, surveillance, and technology transfer. Major programs include:

Health Hazards

The Pittsburgh site is conducting research on health hazards because the most significant dangers in the mining industry include airborne contaminants such as coal dust, silica dust and diesel particulates, and excessive exposure to noise levels. Pittsburgh research teams study the development of control technologies and strategies for airborne contaminants including improved measurement systems, laboratory and field studies to design, assess and demonstrate airborne hazard reduction systems. Similar work is being done regarding noise-induced hearing loss in miners.

Safety Hazards

While the safety record of the mining industry has improved dramatically, this occupation remains one of the more hazardous due to the nature of the work environment. Poor visibility, restricted work space, large equipment, significant material handling tasks, and unstable rock units all contribute to the unique hazards found in mining operations. Multi-disciplinary research is conducted to provides the technical and scientific basis for improvements in conditions, work systems and technologies.

Disaster Prevention

Due to the unique nature of underground mining operations the potential exists for explosive gas releases, mine fires and massive roof failures. Research is ongoing for improved understanding of the basic phenomena of mine explosions, designing explosion and fire suppression strategies, and developing approaches for minimizing or preventing massive rock failures. Research experiments are conducted in unique laboratories including the Lake Lynn Laboratory and the Mine Roof Simulator, as well as field studies in operating mines.