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Mining Project: Self-Escape from Underground Coal Mines Training Initiative

Principal Investigator
Start Date10/1/2014
Objective

To characterize the essential components of the mine emergency escape system and develop recommendations to improve system preparedness and self-escape training of underground coal mining personnel.

Topic Area

Research Summary

The objective of this project is to characterize the essential components of the mine emergency escape system (i.e., individual miners, escape teams, responsible person teams, and communication centers) and to explore the current state of self-escape competency training and assessment in the mining industry.

This project has four research aims, as follows:

  1. Identify and prioritize critical self-escape KSAOs (knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics) to improve understanding of the components of the mine emergency escape system (e.g., individual miners, escape teams, responsible person teams, communication centers, etc.) and the relationships among them.
  2. Explore current levels of miner competence in the critical KSAOs, identify gaps in currently available methods to train and assess those KSAOs, and develop strategies to fill identified gaps.
  3. Provide evidence-based self-escape competency training and assessment guidelines to the mining industry.
  4. Create modifiable immersive mine environments suitable for training and behavioral research activities.
Screenshot of room and pillar underground coal mine simulation. This image depicts an active supersection.
Screenshot of room and pillar underground coal mine simulation. This image depicts an active supersection, highlighting the visual cues that mine workers may use to navigate around the section, including lighting, cables, curtains, and rock dust levels.

This work is being conducted through a combination of in-house efforts and contract work at NIOSH facilities, mine sites, and other training facilities. Project activities include formal hierarchical and cognitive task analyses to identify critical self-escape KSAOs, the exploration and description of elements related to the mine emergency escape system required by law (e.g., responsible person, communication and tracking systems) and relevant training implications, the identification of existing gaps in miner training and competence, and a review of the knowledge base related to emergency training in international mining and other high-risk industries to determine best practices in competency development.

This exploratory work is a critical first step in an Instructional Systems Development (ISD) approach to improving system preparedness and self-escape training of underground coal mine personnel. The outcomes of these activities, along with the continued analysis of quantitative and qualitative data associated with existing NIOSH mine emergency response training, will be combined to produce a solid framework from which enhanced self-escape training and assessment materials can be developed and tested in a controlled research setting.

Parallel to this work, the Pittsburgh Mining Research Division’s Technology Integration Team is preparing the Virtual Immersion and Simulation Laboratory (VISLab) for behavioral research activities including experimental work to further characterize and prioritize critical self-escape decision points and the influence of variables that affect sound decision-making under stress in dynamic environments. The team is developing a flexible virtual underground coal mine that can be modified based on mining program research topic and objective.

Ultimately, the results of this work will lead to increased standardization of effective self-escape training and assessment, a more prepared workforce, and could inform legislative and policy discussions related to self-escape training requirements.

Related Resources

BG 4 Benching Trainer Software

NIOSH Mine Emergency Escape Simulation Technology Available for Developers

Underground Coal Mine Map Reading Training


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