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Reducing the fire and explosion hazards of flame-cutting and welding in underground coal mines

Mining Engineering , 2010, Vol. 62, No. 6, pp. 90-90

Monaghan, W.D.


One of the major ignition sources of fires and explosions in underground U.S. coal mines is flame cutting and welding. On May 20, 2006, a flame-cutting operation at the Darby Mine No. 1 led to an explosion that resulted in five fatalities. On Jan. 22, 2003, another explosion caused by flame cutting at the McElroy Mine resulted in three fatalities and three serious injuries. On June 22, 1999, a flame-cutting and welding operation at the Loveridge Mine caused a fire that required sealing the mine for an extended period. On March 19, 1992, an explosion initiated by welding at the Blacksville No. 1 Mine resulted in four fatalities. These examples of mine incidents demonstrate the need to conduct research to develop best practices for safely conducting flame cutting and welding in underground coal mines. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study on fires and explosions in underground U.S. coal mines that were caused by flame-cutting and welding operations to determine the root causes of these types of incidents. The methodology included interviewing mining personnel who perform flame-cutting or welding operations in underground U.S. coal mines and visiting mines to observe these operations. In addition, MSHA reports of investigations and accidents statistics were analyzed. The findings were used to identify and compare differences between flame-cutting and welding practices and techniques in small and large mines, eastern and western mines, low-seam and high-seam mines, room-and-pillar and longwall mines, and between experienced miners and new miners. As a result of this study, best practices were developed to reduce the number of fires and explosions caused by flame cutting and welding. This paper provides a summary of this research. Disclaimer: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.