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§22A-1-35. Mine rescue teams.

(a)  The operator shall provide mine rescue coverage at each active underground mine.

(b) Mine rescue coverage may be provided by:

(1) Establishing at least two mine rescue teams which are available at all times when miners are underground; or

(2) Entering into an arrangement for mine rescue services which assures that at least two mine rescue teams are available at all times when miners are underground.

(3) A West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training Mine Rescue Team may serve as a second or backup team for mines within the state and qualify as one of the two teams required under subdivision (1) of this subsection and in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 49.20(4). The operator shall contact the office and obtain the state’s agreement to serve as a backup team in the form of a written notification signed by the director and this notification shall be kept posted at the mine.

(c) As used in this section, mine rescue teams shall be considered available where teams are capable of presenting themselves at the mine site(s) within a reasonable time after notification of an occurrence which might require their services. Rescue team members will be considered available even though performing regular work duties or while in an off-duty capacity. The requirement that mine rescue teams be available does not apply when teams are participating in mine rescue contests or providing rescue services to another mine.

(d) In the event of a fire, explosion or recovery operations in or about any mine, the director is hereby authorized to assign any mine rescue team to said mine to protect and preserve life and property. The director may also assign mine rescue and recovery work to inspectors, instructors or other qualified employees of the office as he or she deems necessary.

(e) The ground travel time between any mine rescue station and any mine served by that station shall not exceed two hours. To ensure adequate rescue coverage for all underground mines, no mine rescue station may provide coverage for more than seventy mines within the two-hour ground travel limit as defined in this subsection.

(f) Each mine rescue team shall consist of five members and one alternate, who are fully qualified, trained and equipped for providing emergency mine rescue service. Each mine rescue team shall be trained by a state certified mine rescue instructor.

(g) Each member of a mine rescue team must have been employed in an underground mine for a minimum of one year. For the purpose of mine rescue work only, miners who are employed on the surface but work regularly underground meet the experience requirement. The underground experience requirement is waived for those members of a mine rescue team on the effective date of this statute.

(h) An applicant for initial mine rescue training shall pass, on at least an annual basis, a physical examination by a licensed physician certifying his or her fitness to perform mine rescue work. A record that such examination was taken, together with pertinent data relating thereto, shall be kept on file by the operator and a copy shall be furnished to the director.

(i) Upon completion of the initial training, all mine rescue team members shall receive at least forty hours of refresher training annually. This training shall be given at least four hours each month, or for a period of eight hours every two months, and shall include:

(1) Sessions underground at least once every six months;

(2) The wearing and use of a breathing apparatus by team members for a period of at least two hours, while under oxygen, once every two months;

(3) Where applicable, the use, care, capabilities and limitations of auxiliary mine rescue equipment, or a different breathing apparatus;

(4) Mine map training and ventilation procedures.

(j) When engaged in rescue work required by an explosion, fire or other emergency at a mine, all members of mine rescue teams assigned to rescue operations shall, during the period of their rescue work, be employees of the operator of the mine where the emergency exists, and shall be compensated by the operator at the rate established in the area for such work. In no case shall this rate be less than the prevailing wage rate in the industry for the most skilled class of inside mine labor. During the period of their emergency employment, members of mine rescue teams shall be protected by the workers' compensation subscription of the mine operator.

(k) During the recovery work and prior to entering any mine at the start of each shift, all rescue or recovery teams shall be properly informed of existing conditions and work to be performed by the designated company official in charge.

(1) For every two teams performing rescue or recovery work underground, one six-member team shall be stationed at the mine portal.

(2) Each rescue or recovery team performing work with a breathing apparatus shall be provided with a backup team of equal number, stationed at each fresh air base.

(3)  The mine operator shall provide two-way communication and a lifeline or its equivalent at each fresh air base for all mine rescue or recovery teams and no mine rescue team member shall advance more than one thousand feet inby the fresh air base: Provided, That if a life may possibly be saved and existing conditions do not create an unreasonable hazard to mine rescue team members, the rescue team may advance a distance agreed upon by those persons directing the mine rescue or recovery operations: Provided, however, That the mine operator shall provide a lifeline or its equivalent  in each fresh air base for all mine rescue or recovery teams.

(4) A rescue or recovery team shall immediately return to the fresh air base when the atmospheric pressure of any member's breathing apparatus depletes to sixty atmospheres, or its equivalent.

(l) Mine rescue stations shall provide a centralized storage location for rescue equipment. This storage location may be either at the mine site, affiliated mines or a separate mine rescue structure. All mine rescue teams shall be guided by the mine rescue apparatus and auxiliary equipment manual. Each mine rescue station shall be provided with at least the following equipment:

(1) Twelve self-contained oxygen breathing apparatuses, each with a minimum of two hours capacity, and any necessary equipment for testing such breathing apparatuses;

(2) A portable supply of liquid air, liquid oxygen, pressurized oxygen, oxygen generating or carbon dioxide absorbent chemicals, as applicable to the supplied breathing apparatuses and sufficient to sustain each team for six hours while using the breathing apparatuses during rescue operations;

(3) One extra, fully charged, oxygen bottle for each self-contained compressed oxygen breathing apparatus, as required under subdivision (1) of this subsection;

(4) One oxygen pump or a cascading system, compatible with the supplied breathing apparatuses;

(5) Twelve permissible cap lamps and a charging rack;

(6) Two gas detectors appropriate for each type of gas which may be encountered at the mines served;

(7) Two oxygen indicators;

(8) One portable mine rescue communication system or a sound-powered communication system. The wires or cable to the communication system shall be of sufficient tensile strength to be used as a manual communication system. The communication system shall be at least one thousand feet in length; and

(9) Necessary spare parts and tools for repairing the breathing apparatuses and communication system, as presently prescribed by the manufacturer.

(m) Mine rescue apparatuses and equipment shall be maintained in a manner that will ensure readiness for immediate use. A person trained in the use and care of breathing apparatuses shall inspect and test the apparatuses at intervals not exceeding thirty days and shall certify by signature and date that the inspections and tests were done. When the inspection indicates that a corrective action is necessary, the corrective action shall be made and recorded by said person. The certification and corrective action records shall be maintained at the mine rescue station for a period of one year and made available on request to an authorized representative of the director.

(n) Authorized representatives of the director have the right of entry to inspect any designated mine rescue station.

(o) When an authorized representative finds a violation of any of the mine rescue requirements, the representative shall take appropriate corrective action in accordance with section fifteen of this article.

(p) Operators affiliated with a station issued an order by an authorized representative will be notified of that order and that their mine rescue program is invalid. The operators shall have twenty-four hours to submit to the director a revised mine rescue program.

(q) Every operator of an underground mine shall develop and adopt a mine rescue program for submission to the director within thirty days of the effective date of this statute: Provided, That a new program need only be submitted when conditions exist as defined in subsection (p) of this section, or when information contained within the program has changed.

(r) A copy of the mine rescue program shall be posted at the mine and kept on file at the operator's mine rescue station or rescue station affiliate and the state regional office where the mine is located. A copy of the mine emergency notification plan filed pursuant to 30 CFR §49.9(a) will satisfy the requirements of subsection (q) of this section if submitted to the director.

(s) The operator shall immediately notify the director of any changed conditions materially affecting the information submitted in the mine rescue program.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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