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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Human System Integration
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Mine Safety: Essential Components of Self-Escape
Project Scope

An ad-hoc committee will be appointed to identify and synthesize the literature relevant to understanding “self-escape” in the context of mine safety. The committee will review literature in areas such as judgment and decision making under conditions of uncertainty and stress, training of personnel in high-risk professions, technological advancements that may facilitate self-escape (e.g. signaling), physiological and biomechanical effects of stress, and systems approaches to improve the likelihood of success self-escape. This study will focus on underground coal mining but with the understanding that findings and recommendations for that industry will likely be informative to the underground metal/nonmetal mining industry. Basically, the stated purpose of this study is: What in the context of mine operations does it take to give mine workers self-escape capabilities during an emergency? Based on a careful review and collation of a variety of data, the committee will: 1. define “self-escape” in the context of mining emergencies; 2. consider environmental and human-systems factors as well as technologies that contribute to the potential for self-escape from mine emergencies. Among the factors the committee may consider are: escape way conditions, availability of refuge alternatives, communication systems, improved decision-making capabilities, the availability of information, and/or providing physical conditions that would make it easier to escape under adverse conditions; 3. suggest the most effective training methods for the mining industry to adopt in order to impart those skills to miners and to validate individual competency levels of same; 4. identify competencies which are essential for mine workers to have in order to allow them to execute self-escape methods, which will include cognitive competencies as in hazard recognition and decision making, as well as physical abilities; 5. identify any “gaps” in scientific findings and the science of human error applied to mining that could inform this issue, thus help to set a possible research agenda for future funding strategies for NIOSH. In addition to a careful review and discussion of written literature, the committee will engage a variety of stakeholders who are invested in the issue of mine safety such as mining unions (e.g. United Mine Workers Association), industry (e.g. through the National Mining Association), other government agencies (e.g., MSHA, Navy, NASA), and explore accounts of miners who have self-escaped. Also, the committee will be asked to consider any safeguards planned or in place for analogously dangerous situations in which workers could be faced with life-threatening situation in which they have to self-escape from the hazardous environment to a place of safety. Examples might include civilian or military firefighting, working in certain industrial facilities, undersea construction or exploration, and the setting up of space stations – i.e. situations where individuals may become “trapped” in a life-threatening environment. The project is sponsored by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Office of Mine Safety and Health Research. The approximate start date for the project is 09/01/11 A report will be issued in early 2013. Note (01-26-2012): The Project Scope has been edited for added clarification and the updated version is shown above.

Dr. William S. Marras (Chair) - The Ohio State University
Mr. David Beerbower - Beerbower Safety Associates, LLC
Dr. Sian Beilock - The University of Chicago
Dr. David Cliff - University of Queensland
Mr. James Dean - West Virginia University
Dr. David M. DeJoy - University of Georgia
Dr. Albert W. Holland - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Mr. Dennis B. O'Dell - United Mine Workers of America
Dr. David H. Wegman - University of Massachusetts
For more information, see the complete record at the National Academies' Current Project site

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