In underground mines, coal dust explosions are prevented by the addition of rock dust sufficient to render the coal dust inert. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed a hand-held instrument that uses optical reflectance to measure the explosibility of a rock dust and coal dust mixture. This instrument is called the Coal Dust Explosibility Meter (CDEM). In this study, NIOSH personnel accompanied Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspectors on their routine band surveys in five underground coal mines in MSHA District 2 (PA) and three underground coal mines in MSHA District 11 (AL). While underground, NIOSH personnel and MSHA inspectors used the CDEM to assess the explosibilities of the dust samples. The values of percent incombustible content (% IC) determined by the CDEM agreed well with those obtained later by low-temperature ashing (LTA) in both MSHA and NIOSH laboratories. Further, the meter identified some samples as potentially explosible that LTA analysis had found to possess sufficient rock dust for inerting. The CDEM provides more information on the hazards in the mine. Rapid identification of areas with explosible dust mixtures using the CDEM allows for immediate intervention rather than a wait of several weeks for laboratory analysis.
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