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UMWA President Roberts calls for immediate nationwide testing of emergency rescue oxygen devices

May 1, 2006

In the wake of the revelations from Sago mine disaster survivor Randall McCloy, Jr. regarding the problems the miners trapped in the Sago mine had with their self-contained self-rescuer (SCSR) oxygen generation devices, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts sent a letter today to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) demanding immediate nationwide testing to ensure 100% reliability of the devices.

"Every miner working today must know, without the shadow of a doubt, that the SCSR he or she straps to their belt before they go to work--and the ones that are stored underground for emergency use--will function properly," Roberts said. "It's MSHA's job to provide miners with that security, and we call on MSHA to do its job."

In the letter to David Dye, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, Roberts noted that MSHA considered implementing rulemaking in 1999 to address SCSRs in response to reports that the units were not being donned properly in emergency situations and that training in their use may not be adequate. However, this proposed rule was one of those dropped by the Bush administration in 2001.

Yet the conditions that caused concern about SCSRs in 1999 remain the same today. "Nothing has changed to improve SCSRs or their use," Roberts said in his letter.

"Whether is was because the trapped miners could not properly don their SCSRs or some other reason, miners working in 2006 have reason to be concerned about whether they will be able to successfully use an SCSR if an emergency confronts them," Roberts said in his letter. "MSHA has known about these concerns for many years; this year's coal mining tragedies only serve to prove that MSHA must take a more aggressive posture to protect and enhance miners' health and safety."

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