Local company leads way in refuge chamber manufacturing
|The test refuge chamber waits for those who will sit inside.|
Over a period of two years a sophisticated mine refuge chamber has been developed and fabricated through a joint effort of Modern Mine Safety Supply, LLC, a local Emery County business and Mining Health and Safety Solutions Inc. a South Jordan business owned by previous residents of Carbon and Emery counties.
The two years of hard work on a prototype mine refuge chamber brought MMSS to the point that it was time to conduct a test that would involve human test subjects.
The purpose of this test was to determine if the mine refuge chamber would be able to maintain breathable air and remain cool enough inside to keep miners alive and safe.
When the test was to take place 36 people showed up on site at the MMSS fabrication shop to participate in the test and 26 were finally chosen to actually do so. The participants were requested to complete a confidential detailed medical questionnaire and then had their blood pressure and other vital signs checked by EMT Martin Wilson.
Several of the prospective human test subjects were asked not to participate due to various health conditions or if they had a cold or other respiratory problems. The personal medical information was not associated directly with the individual and was kept strictly confidential.
The test subjects were briefed by Randy Tatton CMSP, president of MHSS.
"This is a very critical and special human subject test that has not been done before," said Tatton to the group. "I am confident that we are going to take care of the atmosphere inside and keep you safe."
Tatton stressed that the miners first priority must be to evacuate to the surface in the event of an emergency, but when that's not possible, they may possibly be saved if they have a chamber of this type to get into until emergency response personnel can reach them.
Tatton explained that being in the mine refuge chamber is just like being closed in a trunk of a car or a freezer. It's basically an air tight box. He said the critical difference is that the air inside the mine refuge chamber is maintained to be breathable. Medical grade oxygen is used to replenish the oxygen that is consumed by the respiratory process and the exhaled carbon dioxide is absorbed by the carbon dioxide scrubber.
Tatton stressed to participants that the entire atmosphere inside the mine refuge chamber when the doors are closed will be the same atmosphere that will be breathed for the duration of the test. The air will just be re-conditioned to ensure breathability and recirculated throughout the chamber. He said the systems that maintain the air breathability have been thoroughly tested and proven.
Tatton said the most critical thing the developers were concerned about was if the occupants became too hot. The primary purpose of the test was to ensure the inside of the mine refuge chamber remained cool enough so as not to be dangerous to the occupants. Tatton showed a chart which outlined the temperature and humidity levels which they would use as a guideline to ensure the temperature inside the mine refuge chamber was safe for the occupants.
|Participants sit in the chamber during the four and a half hour test to see how peoples physiology reacts to the confinement, heat and oxygen. All came out with good physical reponses.|
The human subjects were to remain in the chamber until the temperature stabilized. If the temperature rose above safe levels, the test subjects were to be removed.
He said that if the test showed that to be the case, air conditioning will be needed prior to the units being delivered to the mines that have purchased them.
Randy Harris who works with the Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training from West Virginia was on hand for the test. He said the state of West Virginia approved the mine refuge chamber and mines there are required to have one near each working section of the mine. By the end of the year, 300 of these chambers will be installed in West Virginia mines. He said the mine refuge chambers were considered a means to provide breathable air following the Sago mine disaster where 11 miners died of asphyxiation only 1,000 feet away from fresh air. Harris said this product has been developed with no money from the federal government.
"Four small businesses have done this voluntarily and should be commended for it," said Harris.
The 26 participants climbed into their chamber at 6:35 p.m. The temperature of the chamber was 65 degrees at the onset. At 7:50 p.m. the temperature had climbed to 77 degrees and the oxygen level had elevated to 21.1 percent. At 8:30 p.m. the temperature was 78 degrees. An hour later the temperature inside the chamber was 79 degrees. When this temperature was applied in conjunction with the relative humidity which at the time was 80 percent, the resulting apparent temperature was 84 degrees. This was considered a safe apparent temperature for the occupants.
However, when apparent temperatures rise above 94 degrees the heat begins to become detrimental to human health.
The 26 occupants of the chamber passed the time in various ways. Some of them struck up a poker game and others played games on their phones. Some slept, read or talked. Wilson was kept busy taking the blood pressure readings. Jeri Proulx took readings and reported them by radio to those on the outside monitoring the instruments.
In a real emergency the atmosphere inside and outside will be monitored from within the chamber. The participants came out of the chamber no worse for the wear at approximately 10:50 p.m. They all said they felt good and had suffered no adverse conditions from their experience within the chamber.
Jokingly, they said what happens in the chamber, stays in the chamber.
The occupants who participated in the test included Jennie Tatton, JoDell Muller, Kyle Gundersen, Frank Hurst, Vince Christiansen, Anita Sitterud, Clerece Chidester, Joan Burgess, Cory Burgess, Bryan Christensen, Kade Stevenson, Gavin Anderson, Eric Behling, Ted Allen, Cory Sosa, Brad Sitterud, Randall Harris, Scott Kierksiek, Frank Gordon, Bodie Marshall, Josh Hatch, Cory Proulx, Jeri Proulx, Will Payne, Martin Wilson and Patsy Stoddard.