Coal Age

DEC 2018

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40 December 2018 operating ideas Development of a Mine Rescue Support Vehicle by larry d. patts, jeremy rohrbaugh and joseph schall The underground mining industry and its partners work tirelessly to improve mine safety and to develop controls that address the dangers inherent to working in the dy- namic underground environment. Nev- ertheless, the potential for hazards exists every day for mine workers, and should accidents occur and impair the miner's ability to self-escape, specially trained mine rescue teams and support personnel respond to these events. These responders often place themselves at a high level of risk and are required to perform intense manual labor in extremely difficult and unpredictable conditions. The highest priority of the mine rescue team is determining the location of trapped or injured miners and their subsequent res- cue. Team members often must hand-carry injured miners as well as the supplies need- ed to accomplish the rescue, while also wearing a heavy, protective self-contained breathing apparatus to guard against a potentially toxic atmosphere. Additionally, post-event mine floors often contain de- bris from rock falls and rib outbursts, the roof and rib support may be damaged from fire, flooding, or an explosion, and entries may be completely blocked. The presence of haze or smoke can reduce visibility to near zero, and power may need to be re- moved from the mine post-event, which disrupts mine ventilation and allows water levels to rise and accumulate until pump- ing systems are restored. With these specialized needs of mine rescue teams responding to an emergency in mind, the National Institute for Occupa- tional Safety and Health (NIOSH) contract- ed with ROHMAC, which manufactures mine-duty utility equipment and attach- ments, including equipment that can be operated via remote control, under extreme conditions, and in confined spaces. As a re- sult of this contract, along with participa- tion and substantial input from the mining industry and mine rescue community, a prototype mine rescue support vehicle (Fig- ure 1) was successfully developed and test- ed in rigorous conditions to simulate the mining environment. ROHMAC is currently in the process of making further improve- ments to the prototype and will be applying for Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) approval for permissible use. This article details the development of the pro- totype and describes the additional capa- bilities that are being integrated into the mine rescue support vehicle. Vehicle Features Importantly, the key design features for the support vehicle grew out of focused and repeated discussions with mining company safety representatives, mine rescue team members, and MSHA mine emergency operations personnel. The common needs expressed by these groups were that the vehicle should be mine-wor- thy (built to operate reliably in the rugged post-event environment), remotely con- trolled (to allow machine operators to re- main a safe distance from the machine), compact in size (able to navigate the tight spaces of a mine), and able to carry and operate a variety of tools and implements that might be required post-event. Functionally, the machine needed to also have the ability to move debris and haul supplies to increase safety and lessen the manual burden of mine rescue team members. These features would also im- prove the speed and efficiency of the res- cue response efforts. Representatives also requested that the machine include mod- ern video and communications equipment such as a tablet (Figure 2) to provide for- ward exploration capabilities and record the mine environment. Finally, the ma- chine also needed to have the capability to tow a trailer that could serve as a means to move supplies, store accessories, and carry a stretcher to transport injured miners. Figure 1—Prototype mine rescue support vehicle developed under a NIOSH contract. Figure 2—Operator using tablet machine control to test support vehicle prototype.

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