MSHA: Colder Weather Increases Hazards at Coal Mines

Published December 6, 2017

​This week, MSHA launched its annual “Winter Alert” campaign, which is intended to raise awareness about the increased hazards that colder weather creates at both surface and underground coal mines. The agency reminds mine operators and miners that drops in barometric pressure during cold weather and dry winter air can increase the risk of underground coal mine explosions. According to MSHA, methane can migrate more easily into the mine atmosphere when the barometric pressure drops, and drier conditions underground can allow coal dust to become suspended in the mine atmosphere—both conditions that can contribute to the risk of an explosion. The agency urges those working in underground mines to check for methane, know the mine’s ventilation plan, maintain ventilation controls, and continually apply rock dust to prevent the propagation of an explosion.

Limited visibility and slippery walkways are among the cold-weather hazards at surface operations and preparation plants. To help avoid accidents, miners and mine operators should remove snow and ice on roadways, and apply sand to maintain traction. MSHA also encourages examining vehicles for exhaust leaks and limiting engine idle time to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide asphyxiation.

The Winter Alert campaign runs through March. PDF versions of winter safety alerts for surface coal mines and underground coal mines are available on the agency’s website.