Mining Program: Description
Mining research within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health began a program-based approach in 2000. Research projects that will directly or indirectly benefit mine workers are part of integrated programs in areas ranging from respiratory disease studies to research in personal protective technologies. The majority of these projects focus on the development of safety and health interventions and are concentrated at the Pittsburgh and Spokane Research Laboratories.
The NIOSH Mining program includes seven strategic goals, each of which contributes to achievement of the top-level program goal. The major gaps or barriers associated with each strategic goal are identified and used to constitute intermediate goals, and new projects are developed and approved based on their contribution to the accomplishment of an intermediate goal. Resource allocation is guided by the overall state of the top-level goal, and by progress towards strategic and intermediate goals, in an effort to optimize the overall program rather than individual strategic areas of the program. Established performance measures are used to provide meaningful targets for researchers and to assess ongoing progress toward intermediate and strategic goals.
The mission of the NIOSH research program for the Mining sector is to eliminate occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among workers in the mining industries. The program strives to fulfill this mission through the following approaches:
- High Quality Research – The NIOSH Mining program supports high quality research and prevention activities that will lead to reductions in occupational injuries and illnesses among workers in the mining industries. This research is linked to a contracts and grants program designed to award competitive grants to institutions and private entities that will encourage the development and manufacture of mine safety equipment. The contracts and grants program was established to supplement NIOSH intramural research devoted to projects with direct relevance to prevention, escape, and rescue. Contracts are awarded as part of an ongoing process to ensure continuous improvements by NIOSH to mining safety and health technologies.
- Practical Solutions – The NIOSH program for the Mining sector is committed to the development of practical solutions to the complex problems that cause occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among workers in these industries. In response to mandates set forth in the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act) of 2006, NIOSH has developed practical solutions to the critical problem areas of oxygen supply, communications and tracking, and refuge alternatives. To improve oxygen supplies available to mine workers in an emergency situation, NIOSH has designed and produced a prototype of the next generation Ergonomically Enhanced Self-Contained Self-Rescuer (E2SCSR). The prototype is designed to be dockable so that the mouthpiece does not have to be removed when canisters are changed. In communications and tracking, NIOSH has made significant improvements toward a survivable leaky-feeder system, a wireless mesh communications and tracking system, and a medium-frequency communications system. In relation to refuge alternatives, NIOSH has completed evaluations of the commercially available options, recommended improvements, and is developing training materials for their proper use.
- Partnerships – NIOSH recognizes that collaborative efforts in partnership with labor, industry, government, and other stakeholders are the best means of achieving successful outcomes. Fostering these partnerships is a cornerstone of the NIOSH program for the Mining sector. Accordingly, NIOSH has developed research partnerships with industry, labor, and government organizations to solve significant mining safety and health and safety problems, including disaster prevention, dust monitoring, noise control, diesel emissions control, and ground control. Examples of partners include the United Mineworkers of America (labor), National Mining Association (industry), Nevada Mining Association (industry), WV Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training (state government), and MSHA (federal government).
- Research to Practice (r2p) – NIOSH believes that its research only realizes its true value when put into practice. Every research project within the NIOSH program for the Mining sector formulates a strategy to promote the transfer and translation of research findings into prevention practices and products that will be adopted in the workplace. These efforts have resulted in a range of technology-based products and engineering controls devoted to miner health and safety. For example, new engineering controls have been developed, tested, and demonstrated for reducing noise levels on continuous miners and roof bolters. These technologies lower equipment noise levels below the permissible exposure level for the first time. Research on mine explosions and mine seals has led to the development of the coal dust explosibility meter (CDEM), the first device to provide an immediate determination of whether coal dust concentrations have been sufficiently mixed with rock dust to prevent an explosion risk. The Personal Dust Monitor (PDM) is a real-time, continuous exposure assessment technology now commercially available and being used in coal mines. Finally, training packages and emergency response training protocols for mining companies are being developed to identify and address emerging issues in mine emergency response planning.