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A Method to Characterize Risk Associated With Mine Roof Conditions
  • Published Date:
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  • Description:
    Objective To characterize the roof fall risk associated with underground limestone mining. Background During the first 5 years of this decade, more than one-fourth of the underground mining fatalities occurred as the result of fall of ground. The large openings in underground stone mines present limitations in observing ground conditions because of floor-to-roof heights ranging from 20 to 60 ft or more. Generally, the status of ground conditions in under-ground stone mines is based on observation and experience obtained during mining development. Some mines use monitoring instruments to gain information on roof conditions, but this practice is typically focused and localized to address issues in a particular area or section of the mine. The Roof Fall Risk Index (RFRI) described here provides a method of systematically characterizing the risk of roof falls to enhance the safety of mine workers. Approach As in many industries, a defective product signals the potential for failure. Similarly, defective rock or strata in an underground stone mine presents a potential risk. Assessing ground conditions relative to the concentration of defects observed provides a way to index or rate these conditions and the subsequent risk. Through observations at approximately 50 underground limestone mines in the United States, strata defects were categorized to develop a quantitative method for determining the RFRI. This method is specifically geared to underground lime-stone mines because strata defects are difficult to see and limited by the experience and knowledge of the observer. Overall, 10 defect categories were deter-mined: 3 that relate to geology, 4 that result from mine development, 2 that are indicative of the roof profile, and 1 that addresses moisture or water flow (see RFRI Chart 1). The defect categories are also weighted to reflect the conditions indicative of roof or strata movement or separation (categories 4 through 8). These weights are multiplied by the assessment value to determine the total category value. The benefit of using monitoring techniques to gain information on roof conditions is also factored into the RFRI for overall assessment of an area in the mine. Each defect category is assessed with a value of 1 to 5 based on parameters as defined in each defect category, with 5 indicating the highest degree or level of defect. The assessment value of 3 is also used when information on a parameter is unknown. The parameters for the defect categories are illustrated in RFRI Chart 2 for use in determining the assessed value. How It Works The RFRI provides a means to categorize the risk for roof falls in underground stone mines. The concept of this calculation is aimed at providing an indication of the level or degree of defect relative to the area of the mine examined. The RFRI for the calculation produces a distribution where RFRI values approaching 0 represent a stable condition and those ap-proaching 100 represent an unstable condition.

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