CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal and state regulatory agencies are moving quickly to replace potentially defective emergency breathing devices used by coal-mine safety inspectors.
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration bought 300 new self-contained, self-rescuers, or SCSRs, last year and has ordered another 600 replacements for SR-100 models made by Pittsburgh-based CSE Corp.
In West Virginia, the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training is making an emergency order to replace any SR-100s currently assigned to its mine inspectors.
Late last month, MSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced a plan to phase-out the coal industry's use of the SR-100, after a NIOSH report confirmed long-standing complaints from miners about problems getting the units to work.
The phase-out announced by MSHA gives mine operators until Dec. 31, 2013, to replace any and all SR-100 units they have with other models of SCSR approved by the agency.
MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said last September's purchase of replacements for more than 300 SCSRs used by agency inspectors was timed as part of the routine replacement process as those units reached the end of their estimated life.
Another 600 were ordered just after last month's announcement of the industry-wide phase-out of the SR-100, Louviere said.
"The ones that are being phased out now are part of the regular replacement cycle for those that are nearing their expiration dates," she said.
State officials are in the process of buying replacement devices for about 40 SR-100s used by West Virginia mine inspectors, said agency spokeswoman Leslie Fitzwater.
CSE stopped making and selling the SR-100 and last year began marketing a new model of SCSR that the company says is smaller, lighter and produces 40 percent more oxygen than the SR-100, which was rated to supply at least one hour of breathable air. Other SCSR makers include Wisconsin-based Ocenco and the German firm Drager.