When "common knowledge" about safety equipment turns out to be untrue, people can get hurt. So, to help you keep the facts straight, we’ve rounded up the fallacies we hear most often, and matched each one with an engineering-based reality check.
Click on a Myth below to learn the Facts:
Self-Contained Self-Rescuers (SCSRs)
Oxygen is oxygen. Any chemist will tell you that the oxygen from a chemical SCSR is exactly the same as the oxygen from a high-pressure cylinder. Both technologies give you the gas your body needs. In fact, each breath from a chemical device carries about three or four times as much oxygen as an equal puff of air from your own back yard.
Yes, they do. In the past decade, CSE SCSRs have helped more than 30 miners escape from mine emergencies – including the Aracoma, Upper Big Branch, and Sago disasters. The record shows that the one-two punch of superior technology and effective training can – and does – save lives.
Actually, chemically-stored oxygen has the edge in reliability. All safety equipment takes a beating on the job, and even the tiniest leak in a compressed-gas system can quietly bleed your oxygen away. You could be left helpless in an emergency.
But, with a chemical SCSR, your oxygen supply is locked in a special chemical compound until you activate it. All of your oxygen is secure until you release it with the moisture in your breath.
SCSRs are here to stay. Open-circuit devices are just too bulky, and too heavy, to carry through a full shift. But every miner still needs a light, compact, belt-mounted oxygen supply, and that means a proven, reliable, closed-circuit SCSR.
Using an SCSR does feel different from just breathing in the open air, but don't believe the tall tales you might hear. You can find out for yourself in an SCSR training class. You'll see that, like any other emergency device, it's designed to be as comfortable as it can be while still protecting you effectively.
Understanding how it works will help you feel better about using it. The first thing you'll notice is a little resistance as you breathe. It's not enough to keep you from doing what you need to do, and, in fact, changes in resistance can tell you when it's time to switch over to a second SCSR. You'll also notice warmth in the air you're breathing. That's normal, too.
Hundreds of miners try out our SCSRs in training courses every year, and more than 90 percent of them tell us the resistance and warmth are no big deal.
While it's true that you can't carry on a conversation, it's false to say you can't communicate. Workers in all kinds of industries – crane directors, steelworkers, construction workers, divers, even miners – have developed simple, clear ways to communicate non-verbally. Police and military personnel trust each other to stay in touch via hand signals alone.
Think about the head and hand gestures you make every day. You probably do a lot more silent communication than you're aware of.
Nothing could be further from the truth. That kind of thinking has landed many a miner in deep trouble. Remember:
- You're not going to run short. Due to the Miner Act, every mine stocks a large supply of SCSRs. You'll be able to grab an extra SCSR if you need one.
- When danger strikes, you probably won't be able to hear or smell it coming. "Wait and see" can quickly turn into "game over."
- One of the first things that toxic gases and low oxygen levels do is mess with your head. If they get to you before you can don your SCSR, you may not have enough smarts left to make the right decisions – or even use your SCSR at all.
Actually, chemical SCSRs have only been in use about as long as cell phones —since the 1980s. And, like phones, they keep improving. Technical advances mean small, lightweight SCSRs now produce more oxygen than ever before. That's why, in state-of-the-art settings like the aerospace industry and the nuclear submarine service, chemically based oxygen generation is the standard.
Compressed gas technology, on the other hand, has gone pretty much unchanged for more than a century.
The new regulations are challenging, but CSE testing has shown that groundbreaking new SCSRs can be ready by the 2015 deadline. CSE engineers began design work the day the new law went into effect. And we will be rolling out a new rescuer that meets both the regulations and the industry's needs well before the deadline.
The new, black SRLD is a whole new breed. Sure, there's a family resemblance, but now:
- At the core of the SRLD is a completely redesigned oxygen generator that produces more oxygen faster than ever before.
- Innovative QuickStart technology gives you 40 percent greater oxygen flow in the first few minutes of operation – when you need it the most.
- Our rugged new polycarbonate dust shield is reinforced for higher durability and reliability in the same compact profile.
- We've raised the allowable temperature limit by 20° F, for longer operating life.
Combine all that with a new and improved training program, increased comfort, and simplified donning, and you get a dramatic advance in SCSR performance across the board.
Portable Gas Detectors
There's a gray area between compliance and real safety. While MSHA regulations set a baseline for miner protection, the bare minimum isn't necessarily the best way to manage risk – or liability.
That's why more and more mine operators are taking the initiative to equip workers with gas detectors that are reliable, effective, and easy to use. They've learned that lives can be saved when miners and safety personnel understand their equipment, trust it, and use it properly.
Today's technology makes it possible to miniaturize just about anything. But downsizing for its own sake can mean big compromises: less ruggedness in the field; shorter battery life; smaller, harder-to-read displays; time-consuming repairs; tedious sensor replacements. Efforts to shave off a few millimeters or grams can add risk or increase long-term costs.
It's not that size and weight aren't important. But when you select a gas monitor, remember that durability and reliability come first in protecting lives.
It's like this: Before you invest in a truck, you probably look at its repair record. If you see that the economy model spends a lot of time in the shop, you start to think about the difference between price and value.
So don't decide on a gas detector until you've asked: Does it give me features that match the job I have to do? What's its record for downtime vs. availability? How's the warranty? And will I get the customer service and support I need?
The bottom line is that a detector that's built to last, and works reliably, can reduce your long-term ownership cost by a wide margin.
Field maintenance isn't necessarily a good idea. A gas detector is a precision instrument, and a miner's life can depend on it. But, in the field, key components can meet with damage, dust, and debris. So, if a detector needs attention, the work should be done under controlled conditions.
Dealing direct with a manufacturer that maintains a trained, dedicated service organization doesn't have to cost more or take longer. What it can do is take the heat off your own team - while getting your detectors back on the job quickly and economically.
Today's detectors draw less power and run on high-tech batteries, so they can keep going and going on a single charge. Longer battery life ensures that miners can make it through a shift with power to spare – and can even let mine operators safely "double-shift" their units, reducing the total number of detectors they have to invest in.
Gas detection is a science, and but that doesn't mean miners have to be scientists. Today's detectors are more user-friendly than ever before. It's not hard to find a detector that's easy to use right out of the box, with minimal setup or training. When a device "just works," it reduces the burden on miners and the people who will test, calibrate, and maintain it. This allows your operation to spend more time mining and less time trying to understand equipment.