Proximity detection refers to a technology that can be installed on mining machinery to detect the presence of personnel or other machinery within a certain distance. These systems can be programmed to send warning signals and stop machine movement when the programmed areas are breached.

MSHA is proposing a rule instead of issuing a scheduled emergency temporary standard to provide opportunity for public participation prior to implementation. During the comment period, which will close on November 14, MSHA will hold public hearings in Denver, Colo., on October 18; Charleston, W.Va., on October 20; and Washington, Pa., on October 25.

According to the proposed rule, underground coal mine operators would be required to equip existing continuous mining machines with a proximity detection system within 18 months from the publication date of a final rule to allow operators time to have equipment retrofitted and to train miners and supervisors in the new technology. Newly manufactured continuous mining machines would be required to be equipped within three months of the publication date of a final rule.

Additionally, proximity detection systems would be required to cause a continuous mining machine to stop at least 3 ft away from a miner unless the machine is remotely cutting coal or rock, in which case it must stop before contacting a miner; provide an audible or visual warning signal when the machine is 5 feet or closer to a miner, except while a continuous mining machine is cutting coal or rock; provide a visual signal on the machine that indicates the system is functioning properly; prevent movement of the machine if the system is not functioning properly; prevent interference with or from other electrical systems; and be installed and maintained by a trained person.