MSHA focuses on underground mine ribs in 2012 roof campaign

Date Posted
Caleb Kimpel

The Mine Safety and Health Administration aims to improve rib control in its efforts to save the lives of miners. The 2012 Preventative Roof Rib Outreach Program, PROP, is the latest of the regulatory body’s efforts to preempt mining injuries and deaths through education and outreach to workers and mine owners.

According to the MSHA, There were 484 injuries that resulted from roof and rib failures in 2011, compared to 439 in 2010 — the first year that saw more fatal rib failure accidents than typical roof fall accidents. While roof fall fatalities occur significantly less frequently than they did a decade ago, MSHA notes, rib fall fatality numbers have been fairly consistent. During a rib failure, the walls crumble from pressure; during a roof fall, the roof falls from the top of the mine.

“Rib failures pose as much of a danger as the more typical roof fall accidents,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

MSHA plans to distribute information to underground mine operators and miners in its efforts to reduce injuries and deaths as a result of rib failures. The drive focuses on educating miners about the dangers of rib falls, and to encourage thorough checking to identify hazardous roof and rib conditions so they can be adequately addressed.

About 70 percent of the  rib fall fatality victims since 1995 were either roof bolting machine operators or continuous mining machine operators.  Further, only three had any rib support installed at all.

MSHA offers the following to prevent rib falls:

Safety Tips

  • Rib bolts provide the best protection against rib falls and are most effective when installed on cycle and in a consistent pattern.
  • Operators of mines where conditions create rib fall hazards are strongly encouraged to employ inside-control, walk-through roof bolting machines with rib bolting capability.
  • In some limited situations where rib bolting is not available, other techniques such as roof-to-floor standing support, roof-rib brackets, or pillar wrapping can be helpful.


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