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Safety officials move to phase out unsafe emergency respirators

Coal mining represents one of the most prominent industries in Pennsylvania. Though the industry brings economic vitality to the state, there are a number of risks associated with the mining process. Aside from the clear risks of a workplace injury associated with a mine collapse, coal miners are exposed to the risks of respiratory distress associated with oxygen deprivation.

In order to mitigate the risks associated with coal mining, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has issued a plan to phase out the use of the CSE Corporation's SR-100 escape respirator. This is welcome news after the reliability of the respirator came into question. A small number of devices failed to deliver oxygen appropriately and consistently.

For a mine worker deep below the ground, being able to count on an emergency respirator is a top priority. A fully-functioning respirator can mean the difference between survival and serious injury or death in the event of an emergency. Fortunately, workplace safety advocates are doing their best to ensure the safety of Pennsylvania coal miners.

Since the SE-100 respirator was approved for use in mining and other industries in 1989, tens of thousands of these devices have been distributed and are still in use. Knowing how extensively this respirator is used and the rate of failure among the devices, they will slowly be phased out of use. At this time, employers who remove them from use should dispose of them, rather than redistributing them into another industry. By the end of 2013, this device should no longer be used in any industry.

In order to preserve the lives and safety of miners throughout the state and country, it is important for mining companies to take steps to eliminate the use of this particular respirator as soon as possible. Even though the overall failure rate of these devices is low, losing one life on the job is one life too many. At the same time employees should do their best to stay vigilant and monitor their employers plan to make sure reliable emergency respirators are put into use.

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, "Respirator Use Notice," April 26, 2012

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