by john j. sammarco
Fortunately, there is an overall trend of increasing mineworker safety in the United States. One example is the rate per 200,000 hours worked of coal mining nonfatal lost-time injuries was 2.57 during 2009 and it reduced to 1.99 during 2015 (MSHA, 2015). Nevertheless, the need to improve mineworker safety continues.
With this goal in mind, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers are specifically focusing on lighting to improve the safety of roof bolter operators. Roof bolting is critical to secure the overlying roof strata. Unfortunately, there are also inherent hazards associated with roof bolting. During 2004 to 2013, there were 16 fatalities and 3,411 nonfatal lost-time injuries, accounting for 64.7% of injuries at underground coal mines (Sammarco et al., 2016). Put simply, roof bolter operators need to readily see the surrounding hazards so they can avoid them and work safely. Providing effective lighting for these operators is a major challenge given that underground mines are one of the most difficult environments to illuminate (Rea 2000). Historically, lighting roof bolters has been challenging given the machine’s size, limited space for mounting lighting, and the possibility of excessive glare due to the worker’s close proximity to the machine lighting.
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