The head of West Virginia University’s mining and industrial extension program has been appointed to serve on a National Research Council committee to study how to equip miners to escape during a disaster, even before help can arrive.

“The work of this committee will focus on what is necessary for individual miners to self-escape, when possible, rather than await rescue teams,” said James Dean, director of Mining and Industrial Extension in WVU’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

“Our departmental instructors are working cooperatively with mine safety personnel and labor representatives to ensure miners have the highest quality training experience possible. I am honored to be selected to serve as a member of this committee,” said Dean, one of nine educators and industry representatives to serve on the committee.

The National Research Council and the National Academies serve as advisers to the nation on science, engineering and medicine. The study is sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Office of Mine Safety and Health Research.

Dean has extensive experience working on mine safety-related issues. Following the Sago and Aracoma disasters in West Virginia, he served as acting director of the state’s Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training at the request of then-Gov. Joe Manchin. During his tenure, he worked with all facets of the industry to develop consensus standards on requirements for self-contained self-rescuers, refuge chambers and mine communication, and tracking systems. The committee’s provided the template for new federal regulations implemented through the MINER Act of 2006.

He continues to serve by gubernatorial appointment on the West Virginia Mine Safety Technology Task Force, which is charged with looking at new technology for improving mine safety and mine emergency operations in the state and nation. During his time at WVU, Dean has worked collaboratively to develop a mobile SCSR training gallery for use at mine sites, in addition to a simulated underground mine for emergency response training for individual miners, mine emergency responders and other mine training.

“Jim has done an outstanding job of leading a very high profile outreach unit for the University,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College. “His vision and insight have led to the development of innovative facilities that directly contribute to important safety training and will lead to new cutting-edge applied research to support mining operations.

The ad-hoc committee will work under the oversight of the National Research Council’s Board on Human-Systems Integration 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 successful self-escape.

This study will focus on underground coal mining with the understanding that findings and recommendations for that industry will likely be informative to the underground metal/nonmetal mining industry.

The committee, which will be chaired by William Marras, professor of industrial engineering at Ohio State University, is expected to meet five times in the coming months.

The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. Charles Vest, a 1963 graduate of WVU with a degree in mechanical engineering, serves as president of the NAE. Former chair of the WVU Department of Mining Engineering, Syd Peng, is also an NAE member.



CONTACT: Mary Dillon; Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

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