MSHA decided to distribute this alert based on testimony delivered during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing in Beckley, West Virginia in May that raised serious questions as to whether or not the Upper Big Branch mine was properly following ventilation standards prior to the explosion on April 5. The testimony from family members of miners who died in the April 5 explosion at Upper Big Branch mine indicated that concerns over safety conditions existed at the mine prior to the deadly blast.
“This announcement serves to remind all mine operators of their obligation to comply with all federal regulations to ensure the health and safety of their employees,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant U.S. secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Failure to follow the ventilation standards can lead to illness, injury and death. These standards are not voluntary and every mine operator in the country is on notice that MSHA will not tolerate violations of ventilation standards.”
Intentional changes to the mine’s ventilation system include adding a new shaft, bringing a new fan on line, changing the direction of air in an air course, changing the direction of air in a bleeder system and shutting down one fan in a multiple fan system. Any intentional change to the ventilation system that alters the main air current or any split of the main air current in a manner that could materially affect the safety and health of miners must be approved by MSHA before it is implemented.