Bruceton Research Center – Protecting Workers for 110 Years

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Early successful nan Pittsburgh site’s history, miners preparing nan investigation mines utilized donkeys to haul supplies into nan excavation and propulsion ember cars retired connected obstruction lines.

The Bruceton Research Center successful Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has a agelong and storied history going backmost much than a century. Today, 2 NIOSH divisions behaviour extended investigation successful this location – nan NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) and nan NIOSH Pittsburgh Mining Research Division (PMRD). This tract is besides location to an agency of nan Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and nan Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

The roots of nan Bruceton Research Center agelong backmost to nan Organic Act of 1910, which was passed to amended nan information of excavation workers and established nan United States Bureau of Mines (USBM). In nan years anterior to nan agency’s founding, a bid of horrific excavation explosions costs thousands of miners their lives. In 1911, nan USBM leased 38 acres of onshore successful Bruceton, Pennsylvania, and constructed an experimental excavation that is still utilized by NIOSH researchers connected tract today. On October 30, 1911, nan Bruceton site’s experimental excavation hosted nan first nationalist trial of a ember particulate detonation successful aerial and helped beryllium that ember particulate could detonate without nan beingness of methane gas. About 1,200 spectators came retired to spot nan objection and circuit nan caller facility.

During nan early days of nan USBM, nan agency promoted respective innovative technologies, including caller developments successful respiratory protection. They laid retired immoderate of nan earliest national guidance for respiratory instrumentality and started a respirator certification program. On January 15, 1920, nan USBM certified its first respirator, nan Gibbs breathing apparatus. This first respirator support laid nan instauration for nan early activity of NPPTL astatine nan Bruceton Research Center. It was followed by nan first particulate filtering respirator support successful 1934 and chemic cartridge respirator support successful 1944. Despite nan deficiency of general requirements to person these devices successful nan workplace, manufacturers voluntary submitted their products for approval. After World War I, nan USBM took a measurement further and developed standards and testing methods.

In 1970, Congress passed nan Occupational Safety and Health Act, which created some NIOSH and nan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). NIOSH was tasked pinch conducting investigation and training successful worker wellness and safety, which it utilized to supply recommendations to OSHA and MSHA. The twelvemonth 1972 saw respirator testing and support functions move to a NIOSH laboratory successful Morgantown, West Virginia.

Even pinch overmuch of nan respirator testing moving to West Virginia, respirator investigation and guidance improvement continued astatine nan Bruceton Research Center. In 1981, regulations went into effect stating excavation operators were required to supply self-contained self-rescuers (SCSRs) for each miner. And pursuing nan Wilberg fire, hands-on training connected really to decently put connected SCSRs was besides required. USBM training investigation led to nan 3 & 3 process for putting connected a SCSR, which helped guideline workers done nan process of putting connected a breathing portion properly.

An individual reference nan ‘Rainbow Passage’ during a respirator fresh test. Photo from NIOSH

In 1994, nan CDC updated existing tuberculosis guidance. These caller guidelines highlighted nan value of individual protective instrumentality (PPE) for healthcare workers, specifically nan due usage of respiratory protection. Aspects specified arsenic putting on, taking off, and nan fresh of nan respirator were cardinal components, successful summation to nan request for a well-maintained respiratory protection program. One twelvemonth later, arsenic respiratory protection became mandatory, OSHA revised its regulations for fresh testing. Following nan recently introduced regulations, further investigation was conducted connected workplace exposure, starring to caller methods of experimentation. 42 CFR 84, a caller certification regulation, was introduced successful 1995. This caller regularisation replaced nan existing 30 CFR 11 and introduced a caller support concept. The updated requirements and tests are still utilized coming successful nan NPPTL-approval process.

From 1995 to 1997, pinch a bid of Congressional maneuvers, nan USBM began transitioning to go a usability of NIOSH, arsenic mining investigation astir intimately aligned pinch nan goals of improving miner workers’ information and health. The statement remains a investigation programme wrong nan larger NIOSH organization.

In 1999, NIOSH developed a 32-foot-long trailer pinch a built-in four-person sound booth utilized for proceeding tests and proceeding protection evaluations. This trailer, which is still successful usage today, is highly mobile and tin beryllium deployed to different mining sites astir nan country, arsenic good arsenic manufacture conferences, to item nan value of proceeding protection.

Respirator testing and support returned to nan Bruceton Research Center pinch nan creation of NPPTL successful 2001, almost 30 years aft specified investigation had moved to West Virginia. That aforesaid year, respiratory protection changed dramatically. Like nan remainder of nan nation, NPPTL leapt to nan telephone aft nan violent attacks of September 11, 2001. PPE for first responders became a apical priority. Shortly aft nan attacks, NPPTL and respective different organizations conducted a collaborative study connected nan effectiveness of PPE for first responders progressive successful nan rescue operations and nan hazards of nan exposures first responders faced. The results from this activity showed that location was a deficiency of respiratory protection during nan first week of nan rescue operation. This investigation helped pave nan measurement for nan improvement of guidance for nan usage of chemical, biological, radiological, and atomic (CBRN) respirators successful 2005.

In consequence to respective mining disasters successful 2006, Congress passed nan Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act. This established regulations for mining rescue teams, training, and nan sealing of abandoned excavation workings. It besides mandated post-accident investigation into communication, tracking, and nan usage of refuge alternatives. Activities started done this enactment became nan precursor for overmuch of PMRD’s activity that continues coming astatine nan Bruceton Research Center.

The NIOSH Mining Program celebrated a 100-year milestone successful 2010, marking a afloat period of making a quality successful nan health, safety, and declining fatality trends of excavation workers. Building connected its period of research, PMRD has continued to beforehand nan well-being of nan industry’s workforce.

Two workers usage nan ErgoMine 2.0 mobile app to behaviour an ergonomics audit during an instrumentality attraction task. Photo from NIOSH.

Most recently, PMRD investigation has created products specified as:

  • ErgoMine 2.0—a mobile app for mining-specific workplace ergonomics audits.
  • Helmet-CAM and the EVADE 2.3 software—a wearable video signaling strategy designed to brace pinch different individual monitoring devices to find hazardous exposures.
  • EXAMiner—hazard nickname package that allows excavation workers to believe and amended skills by performing virtual workplace examinations.
  • Support Technology Optimization Program (STOP) 4.0 Beta—software to thief excavation operators prime and spot opinionated excavation tile supports.
  • Field Analysis of Silica Tool (FAST)—software that useful pinch a particulate sampling instrumentality to supply field-based results of respirable crystalline silica monitoring.

Additionally, mining investigation and information has produced immoderate game-changing exertion to use nan field, including a Diesel Particulate Matter Monitor, a Continuous Personal Dust Monitor, Coal Dust Explosibility Meter, and galore different advances improving wellness and safety. Notably, 1 illustration is nan improvement of LED Lighting for Roof Bolting Machines that supply level hazard illumination 23 times amended than accepted lighting systems.

The emergence of a awesome Ebola pandemic successful 2014 again brought PPE to nan foreground. Once more, respiratory protection and different forms of PPE were thrust into nan spotlight and pinch them caller guidance and recommendations.

Between 2014 and 2016, nan world Ebola pandemic dispersed to nan United States. Ebola is dispersed by humor aliases different bodily fluids and is highly contagious, which made PPE integral to nan response. To reside this need, nan CDC recommended PPE Ebola Guidance including NIOSH-approved N95 respirators aliases powered aerial purifying respirators (PAPRs) for healthcare workers caring for patients pinch confirmed Ebola aliases persons nether investigation for Ebola. Beyond testing respiratory protection, NPPTL unit led world PPE recommendations for protection against Ebola, including updates to existing acquisition resources. To thief prime due PPE, NPPTL added an Ebola-specific enhancement to nan PPE-Info Database.

In 2019, NPPTL—the inheritor of nan agelong history of respirator research—celebrated 100 years of respiratory protection. To commemorate nan momentous occasion, NPPTL observed a week-long ceremony highlighting important moments passim the rich | history of respiratory protection.

As portion of nan NIOSH effort, NPPTL has played different pivotal domiciled during nan COVID-19 pandemic, expanding nan inventory of respirators crossed nan federation done its value respiratory protection programme and providing valuable PPE guidelines and research. Researchers and engineers conducted studies and evaluations connected world and innovative respirator designs, testing their effectiveness and useability. New guidelines were created to thief pass workers and supervisors successful a assortment of industries really to accommodate to nan rapid, wide take of respiratory protection. For much accusation astir NPPTL’s domiciled during nan COVID-19 pandemic, spot nan NIOSH subject blog, NIOSH Efforts to Keep Workers and nan Country Safe During nan Pandemic.

Over nan years, nan Bruceton Research Center has gone done aggregate changes (see photos below), but NPPTL and PMRD proceed to behaviour important investigation astatine nan site. This communicative accounts for immoderate of nan much absorbing and important moments successful nan site’s history, but ongoing investigation astatine nan tract will proceed to constitute nan communicative of amended worker wellness and information for years to come.

Evan Lybrand, MA, is an ORISE Fellow successful NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory. 

Valerie C.L. Coughanour, MA, MFA, is simply a wellness connection master successful nan NIOSH Mining Program.

This blog is portion of a series for nan NIOSH 50th Anniversary. Stay up to day connected really we’re celebrating NIOSH’s 50th Anniversary connected our website.

Posted connected November 2, 2021 by Evan Lybrand, MA, and Valerie C.L. Coughanour, MA, MFA

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Mining News 2