Mining Machine Kills Its Operator, Proximity Sensor Proposed

Mining authorities are proposing new rules for a mining machine that killed its operator this summer in a Washington coalmine.

Bobby Smith Jr., at 29, already had 12 years of experience in the industry. While operating what is known as a continuous-mining machine by remote control, Smith was caught between the machine and the wall, sustaining fatal injuries.

Smith is one of two to have died in 2010 from continuous-mining machines, and one of 31 miners killed by them since 1984.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, is proposing a new rule that would require the machines, used by over 45 percent of underground U.S. coal producers, to carry devices that detect the presence of miners and shut them off when they get dangerously close.

The technology already exists, and at least 35 continuous mining machines in the U.S. are currently equipped with it.

It is fortunate that the MSHA is attempting to improve the safety of this equipment. Mining is an inherently dangerous job. Anything done to avoid another deadly mining accident is worthwhile.

Metier Law Firm, LLC – Denver injury attorneys

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