Self-escape in underground coal mine emergencies has received much attention in recent years following the Sago mine disaster in 2006 and the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in 2010. Stakeholders such as the National Research Council of the National Academies’ committee on mine safety, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), have recommended a human-systems integration (HSI) approach in examining self-escape as part of the mine safety system to prevent future catastrophic mine incidents.
We at the MERIT Center at Missouri S&T are currently evaluating what miners believe about certain competences and their confidence in their ability to demonstrate the various knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed for self-escape. As part of this research, we have been asking miners whether the KSAs could be improved through better (or novel) technological interventions. Our initial results were presented at the 2022 SME Conference at Salt Lake City Utah. The research adapted a novel “miner-centered” (human-centered) approach to identify perceived technological boundaries to self-escape by soliciting direct feedback from miners to assess their perceptions about the usefulness of some 21 real or hypothetical safety technologies and interventions.
Initial Results from 29 miners from five coal mines in the USA shows that despite collaborative efforts to improve health and safety training by researchers and industry players and the significant investment in emergency response planning and technologies, there is still room for improvement in technology, which miners need during an emergency. Technologies that ranked high in our initial results were:
- SCSR that allows you to talk while wearing
- Improved SCSRs that allow miners to switchover without breathing contaminated air
- Displays in refuge alternatives that show the current location of other miners, and gas and temperature monitoring data directly outside of the RA
- Hand-held interactive devices that miners can use to access real-time CO measurements from any CO monitor throughout the mine.
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