Read the order here.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State mine safety officials late Friday ordered emergency inspections of up to 500 rescue shelters in West Virginia's underground coal mines, citing concerns that cracked valves and fittings might make the units inoperable.
The order from the Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training requires inspections by shelter manufacturers of all inflatable, "tent design" mine rescue chambers by Oct. 31.
The five-page order also requires mine operators to replace all brass valves and fittings associated with the units' compressed-oxygen cylinders within the next two years.
Plans for this required retrofitting must be submitted to the state by Oct. 31, but the deadline for actual replacement of valves and fittings is not until Dec. 31, 2013.
"We have to make sure they are going to operate the way they are designed to operate," said state mine safety director C.A. Phillips.
Mines across West Virginia are required to contain specially designed rescue shelters that could help miners survive the toxic environment inside a mine after an underground explosion.
West Virginia lawmakers mandated the equipment after the Sago Mine disaster and the Aracoma Mine fire, in which workers died before rescuers could reach them in smoke-filled underground tunnels.
The order comes after a lengthy behind-the-scenes state and federal investigation following an incident at an unidentified underground mine in January, where officials originally believed a tent-design shelter had been vandalized.