The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration bought 300 new self-contained, self-rescuers, or SCSRs (right), last year and ordered another 600 this year to replace old ones for inspectors. The devices provide one hour of breathable air.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and MSHA announced last month a plan to phase out old SCSRs after an NIOSH report "confirmed long-standing complaints from miners about problems getting the units to work," Ward reports. MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said the purchase of replacement SCSRs for inspectors last year was part of a routine replacement process. Miners who don't have easy access to backup caches of devices must be given new SCSRs within 30 days. The rest of the old units must be replaced by the end of 2013.
MSHA Director Joe Main and the United Mine Workers have defended the plan, Ward reports. But Main has said that SCSR manufacturers can make about 6,000 new devices a month, meaning all the 66,000 old models could be replaced in less than a year, Ward reports. MSHA officials say several conplex steps are involved in replacing old devices that makes the process take longer. (Read more)