Equipment fires can be extremely hazardous to the safety of miners and their livelihood, especially when they occur in the confined space of underground mines. Enactment of safety regulations, which require machine fire suppression systems on all underground coal mine diesel equipment and electrical-powered mine face equipment, has improved the safety of miners. Equipment fires, however, still occur with serious consequences. For all U.S. coal mining operations, 197 equipment fires caused 76 injuries during 1990-1999. The greatest number of equipment fires and injuries occurred at surface mines. In the future, equipment fires and injuries might be prevented, reduced, or suppressed at their earliest stage by improving firefighting and prevention strategies, developing new technologies, and improving safety training programs. A recent NIOSH study analyzed equipment fires for all underground coal mines, surface of underground coal mines, surface coal mines, and coal prep plants during the 1990s. For each mining category, the injury (Irr) and fire (Frr) risk rates for a 10-year period were derived according to the Mines Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) formula (Irr, number of injuries multiplied by 200,000 working hours per total employees' working hours) and the U.S. Bureau of Mines formula (Frr, number of fires per million tons of coal produced). The total employees' working hours (Ewhr) value was calculated as the sum of 10 yearly Ewhr values for all the states involved in coal production. The total coal production (CP) value was calculated similarly. The Irr, Frr, Ewhr, and CP values for five 2-year time periods were also derived. Equipment fire data for contractors were also included. The data were derived from MSHA publications, MSHA "Accident Investigation Reports," MSHA "Fire Accident Abstracts," and verbal communications with mine personnel. Mining companies are required by law to report to MSHA all fires that result in injuries and those that cannot be extinguished within 30 min of their discovery.
NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236