Working with partners to improve mine emergency response: Our recent visit to the MSHA Academy and Chembio

In June 2022, Eugene Gyawu, a PhD student in our group, and I visited the MSHA Academy and Chembio‘s facilities in Beckley, WV. As you may already know, as part of the MERIT Center‘s work, funded by CDC NIOSH, our research group is working on human systems integration to facilitate more effective miner self-escape. We started our work by surveying coal miners to find out what interventions they believe will facilitate self-escape. The results of that survey, which we have presented before in another blog post, indicate that miners rank improvements to self-contained self-rescuers (SCSRs) and refuge alternatives (RAs). Our goal for the visit to WV was to receive training from MSHA staff on proper deployment of inflatable RAs and to discuss with Chembio, the potential to partner on human subject testing for our proposed technologies.

The visit was very successful. Harold “Chip” Clay, one of MSHA’s training instructors, did an amazing job training us and showing us MSHA’s mine simulator. Together with our NIOSH collaborators, we had detailed discussions on challenges that could arise when miners have to deploy an inflatable RA. Our research will seek to examine the role signage on the unit can play and prompting miners to effectively deploy an RA during an emergency.

MSHA’s training chamber, which Chip used to train us

We then visited Chembio and had a meeting with Jerry Piercy, Chembio’s COO. Jerry was kind enough to give us a tour of the facility and we discussed in detail our experimental design and how we could work with Chembio and coal mines to recruit miners to do test to examine whether better signage will improve outcomes. Chembio committed to supporting our research.

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the willingness of miners (and I’m including OEMs in this) to collaborate to ensure that mining is as safe as possible. While we may not always get it right, the industry, regulators, and other stakeholders are striving towards zero harm. If you are interested in our research effort, please reach out to discuss how we can work together.

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