February 20, 2006 – – Pittsburgh, PA – – On February 15, 2006 the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety held a Mining Industry Technology Roundtable in Washington DC that centered on worker safety. Mr. Wes Kenneweg, President and CEO of Draeger Safety, Inc., was invited to participate on the panel of witnesses to provide expert testimony and detailed discussion on the latest technologies to make miners safer on the job with a special focus on oxygen supply in the event of a mine emergency and on underground to surface communications. Mr. Kenneweg submitted oral and written statements on the subject of Oxygen Self-Rescuers. During the Roundtable
Mr. Kenneweg showed State Senators Kennedy, Clinton, Isakson, Murray and others in attendance, actual Self Rescuers used in many of the mines. The combined technology of small belt-worn oxygen devices like these, in combination with larger stored devices, would provide more oxygen for the miners if they were placed in strategic locations within the mine and this would enhance escape and rescue. Said Mr. Kenneweg. Further technological developments to the product, such as a collapsible full face mask rather than the current bite-type mouthpiece with nose clip, would assist in communications during an emergency. The size and weight of the product could also be improved if testing regulations were changed, he said.
Several steps can be taken to improve this process, mostly regarding the area of equipment testing. Currently, testing approvals can take as long as one year to complete and government testing equipment could be updated to simulate those used by manufacturing companies to allow for quicker approvals. Also Test Standards could be harmonized to match testing standards of other countries (such as Europe) to allow for smaller and lighter products to enter the American marketplace. Congress could expedite these changes for the workers by providing funding to the Federal Test Labs and funding for Research and Development projects undertaken by MSHA and the various Manufacturers of Safety Equipment.
This roundtable consisted of 10 mining experts, who came from a variety of backgrounds, including universities, private industries, US government and the US Military to discuss general safety technologies used in coal mines. This included equipment such as communications occurring above/ and below ground and personnel safety shelters/chambers and Self Contained Self Rescuers, (SCSR), their existing technology, length of use, and various standards. Mining
experts were in attendance as well as representatives from the United Mine Workers of America.
This important discussion was in an effort to increase safety and learn more about the latest technologies to make miners safe on the job. Senator Isakson called the roundtable a positive first step in the process of determining how to make mines safer and promised to continue to explore the issue.
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Draeger Safety, Inc.
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Pittsburgh, PA 15275
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