The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed a rule incorporating national and international voluntary consensus standards related to electric motor-driven mine equipment and accessories. Under the proposed rule, during a one-year transition period, mine operators could use equipment and accessories that meet either 14 voluntary consensus standards (VCS) or the existing MSHA approval requirements. After that, operators would be required to use the consensus standards for equipment and accessories covered by consensus standards.

The proposed rule would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the product approval process, and promote the use of innovative technologies for improved mine safety and health, MSHA said.

The National Mining Association (NMA) applauded MSHA’s proposed revisions. “The industry has long advocated for updates to the standards, which limit companies’ ability to use the latest available technologies to create safer mine environments,” NMA President and CEO Rich Nolan said. “Current standards have resulted in a backlog of superior technologies awaiting MSHA approvals, even as those technologies are being used successfully in mines elsewhere around the world or by other occupations in the U.S.

“The proposed updates will allow us to provide the best available protection for miners through a more efficient and effective process. Put simply, this translates into people being safer sooner.”

The 14 VCS were developed by the American National Standards Institute, the International Society of Automation, UL LLC and the International Electrotechnical Commission. The agency will accept tests from these organizations in lieu of MSHA’s standards. The VCS contain general and specific construction and testing requirements for equipment used in explosive gas atmospheres, explosive dust atmospheres or hazardous locations.

Examples of equipment covered by the regulations include portable two-way radios, remote control units, longwall mining systems, portable oxygen detectors, miner-wearable components for proximity detection systems, and powered air-purifying respirators.

NMA said it and its members have tenaciously worked for this change to streamline the process by which MSHA approves and certifies equipment for use in gassy mines.

The Federal Register published the proposed rule on November 19 and will accept comments at until December 21.