Coal companies are installing defibrillators in their mines to comply with a new order from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
A new regulation approved in December requires all coal mines to be equipped with defibrillators, at the entrance and in each underground section, by March 8. The change comes as a result of a suggestion from a private citizen in Erie County, according to DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday.
“The defibrillators will be required to be within a thousand feet of all the miners that are working, as well as on the surface," said Sunday.
Sunday said heart attacks are no more common in mineshafts than anywhere else; rather, he said miners who have heart attacks just haven't been able to reach defibrillators easily. Because older versions of the medical device emitted sparks, they couldn't be brought into mines for fear of igniting the methane gas within.
"It wasn't possible to have a defibrillator underground because it obviously uses electrical equipment," said Sunday. "Technology has progressed, now, that it's safe enough to put this equipment down there so that, if, in the event that there is a heart attack, the victim wouldn't need to be transported to the surface right away. They could get on-site treatment."
The rules were drafted by the Board of Coal Mine Safety, which includes not only the DEP but also coal mine operators and union representatives. The Board was created in response to the Quecreek mine rescue of 2002, and has established other mine safety measures as well.