Statistical analysis of U.S. coal mine dust exposure in continuous mining sections: 1971-1990

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 86, No. 969, 1993

L. Xu, R. Bhaskar and A. Vazirnegad, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Respirable dust samples are collected by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and mine operators as part of the requirements of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. About 1.85 million respirable dust samples collected by MSHA were analyzed for the period 1971 to 1990 for the states of Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. Trends in coal dust exposure of continuous miner operators, helpers, and roof bolters were analyzed. The reported production in each of the nine states was analyzed. The relationship between average dust exposure and coal production was evaluated. In addition, the differences between mine operator and MSHA inspector collected data were examined for each state. The average exposure levels for the three occupations — miner operator, miner helper, and roof bolter were also compared. The data indicate that the dust exposure levels have significantly dropped over the last twenty years, while at the same time production has increased, attesting to the ability of the U.S. mining industry to adapt successfully to the stringent dust control regulations. In terms of coal production, it appears that some states, such as Utah, Illinois, and Kentucky, were able to increase their production significantly relative to others, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia. The relationship between dust concentration and coal production is, at best, tenuous. It implies that existing dust control technology has assisted several mine operators to meet dust standards, while, at the same time, enabling mines to produce more coal than before. Comparison of data collected by MSHA and mine operators indicate that MSHA inspectors recorded higher dust levels and lower shift production relative to mine operators.
Mots Clés: Coal mining, Health, Safety, Respirable dust, Dust control, Statistical analyses, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).