Overview Of The Underground Environment And Study Settings; Behavioral And Organizational Dimensions Of Underground Mine Fires
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Overview Of The Underground Environment And Study Settings; Behavioral And Organizational Dimensions Of Underground Mine Fires

  • 01/01/2000

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  • Description:
    This chapter details the perspective from which collected data have been examined. The first part, intended primarily for lay readers, discusses several topics related to mining as an enterprise. Initially, the organizational functioning of atypical large mine will be described. It is the formal structure above a miner that decides the conditions of his or her work. A second point of concern is the technology itself An underground coal mine is a sociotechnical system, with workers and machines organized in particular ways during production. Third, general conditions and dangers underground will be described in detail. The physical environment of an operation is a powerful factor in the work life of miners. Fourth, a discussion of the process of formal training is given. During this training, a new worker is taught what the organization expects of him or her in the role of safe, productive, coal miner. Next, there are outside organizations that act as significant forces in the workplace. Examples include the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), State agencies, and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The roles of these entities will also be examined. The second part of this chapter will depict each study site as a concrete setting, so that findings can be interpreted in their proper context. The Organizational and Technical Nature of Mining A coal mine is a complex system. It is defined as all parts of a mining plant's property (both underground and surface) that contribute, under one management, to the extraction or handling of coal [American Geological Institute 1997]. As suggested, many functions that must be carried out at an operation are only indirectly related to coal mining and processing. Even the jobs that are directly related tend to be numerous and varied [Wall work 1981]. According to Palowitch [1982], the chief reason for this sophistication is that "after more than two centuries of exploiting our coal resources, today's coal industry finds itself saddled with a horrendous legacy of human impairments and environmental damages which society demands be corrected." Now, the effects of government regulation are evident in every aspect of the mining industry. Any operation, if it is to survive, must be administered with an eye for social efficiency and accountability. Long-range planning is needed to ensure that the mine produces coal in a cost-effective manner. One of the first things that must be considered is location and method of access. To extract coal from an underground mine, a coalbed (or "seam") must be reached from the surface. The term "portal" is generally given to any entrance that provides access to a coal mine. In hilly terrain, such as is found in Appalachia, the coal may "outcrop" on a hillside. This allows direct
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