MSHA Reopens Record for Proposed Rule on Proximity Detection Systems

Published February 22, 2017

MSHA has extended the comment period for its proposed rule on proximity detection systems for mobile machines in underground mines. The proposed rule, which was issued in September 2015, is intended to protect miners from pinning, crushing, or striking accidents and would require proximity detection systems on coal-hauling machines and scoops used in underground coal mines. According to a new Federal Register notice, stakeholders now have until April 10, 2017, to provide input and evaluate the rulemaking record.

Proximity detection systems use electronic sensors on both mining machines and miners to detect motion or the location of one object relative to another, and can be programmed to send warning signals and stop mining machines before they injure or kill workers in underground coal mines. MSHA’s proposed rule would require coal mine operators to use proximity detection systems that cause coal-hauling machines or scoops to stop before contacting a miner; provide audible and visual warning signals when a miner gets too close to a machine; and provide a visual signal indicating that the system is functioning properly. Proximity detection systems would also be required to prevent movement of the machine if the system is not functioning properly and prevent interference with or from other electrical systems. The proposed rule would require that the systems be installed and maintained by a person trained in its installation and maintenance.

The comment period for MSHA’s proposed rule originally closed on Dec. 15, 2015. The agency reopened the rulemaking record last month and is requesting comments on issues raised by commenters and on issues that developed after the record closed, such as mine operators’ concerns regarding electromagnetic interferences with proximity detection systems from respirable coal mine dust sampling devices.