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Roof and rib fall incident trends: a 10-year profile

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2011, Vol. 330, No. 1, pp. 462-478

Pappas, D.M.; Mark, C.


From 1999 through 2008, groundfall events resulted in 75 fatalities, 5,941 injuries and 13,774 noninjury roof falls in U.S. underground coal mines, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). A comprehensive analysis of these events was conducted to better understand where and why these incidents occurred. The first segment of the study used the MSHA database to evaluate groundfall injury rate trends related to mining method, year, locality, seam thickness, mine size, coalbeds and seasonal effects. In the past decade, roof fall injury rates have dropped 50%, but rib fall injury rates have remained constant. Room-and-pillar mines had a roof fall injury rate that was nearly 2.5 times the longwall rate. High groundfall rates occurred in the Illinois Basin, a finding that correlates with other studies that have shown that roof rock in the Illinois Basin is weaker than that in the central Appalachian coalfields. Finally, noninjury roof fall rates in the eastern and central United States were found to be 50% higher from July through September, possibly because of the changes in humidity levels that may cause shale mine roofs to deteriorate. The second segment of the study evaluated the root causes of failure by reviewing all MSHA groundfall fatality reports for 1999-2008. Pillar recovery was the leading cause of groundfall fatalities (19%), followed by rib falls, roof skin falls and traveling under unsupported roof (16% each). Defining prominent ground control incident trends and hazards will identify areas where additional study is needed and where innovative solutions need to be developed to reduce these severe occupational hazards.