A Bit Disturbing

It looks like our fearless leader — the same man who helped to cut funding of New Orleans levys, also helped to cut funding for mine safety…take a look at Nancy Zuckerbrod’s Associated Press article.



WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is reviewing safety equipment used in the nation‘s mines after previously scrapping similar initiatives started by the Clinton administration.

In recent years, the Mine Safety and Health Administration pulled Clinton-era initiatives examining safety equipment and mine rescue operations off its regulatory agenda, a semiannual document that outlines what agencies are working on.

Such issues will be re-examined, according to the documents, which noted that the Sago Mine accident in West Virginia “underscored the vital role that mine rescue operations play in response to catastrophic mine incidents.”

“Work was in progress to implement some of these protections,” Joe Main, who recently retired as the top safety expert at the United Mine Workers union, said Saturday.

“Study all you want,” Main said. “That‘s good. That‘s healthy, but don‘t preclude action with study.”

Main said the goal was to eliminate defects and improve inspections of the air packs and ensure that the machines were actually providing the one hour‘s worth of air that is required. The union also wanted extra units stored in the mines. The review will examine those issues.

Officials also said there was evidence most of the miners used their one-hour air packs, yet the ordeal lasted more than 40 hours.

Kravitz said the Labor Department agency, along with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, has held numerous workshops to identify what technology might be available or developed to provide miners with longer-lasting oxygen packs that are light enough to wear.

Another item the Clinton administration had been reviewing but which was withdrawn during President Bush ‘s first term involved the deployment of mine rescue teams.

Ellen Smith, owner of Mine Safety and Health News, a newsletter, said miners‘ representatives and industry officials disagreed over what should be required of mine operators when it comes to rescue teams.

“Nothing was being accomplished, but I don‘t think that‘s a good reason for giving up,” Smith said of the decision to pull the issue from the regulatory agenda.

Kravitz said his agency in recent years expanded national contests it holds to train and attract new mine rescue teams.

In its request for public input, the agency also is seeking information on technology that might help rescuers communicate with miners such as text messaging devices. The agency also is looking into whether rescue chambers could be built as safe havens inside mines.

The federal government isn‘t alone in conducting a review.

The National Mining Association, an industry trade group, plans to form its own commission to look at mine safety and examine technology that could be useful, spokeswoman Carol Raulston said.

“I think the industry has literally been shaken by this month‘s events,” Raulston said. “There was a broad agreement that we really needed to focus efforts, particularly looking at technology and training.”


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