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State to require heart devices in mines

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Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Pennsylvania is about to become the first state to require installation of automated external defibrillators, portable devices that aid someone in cardiac arrest, in underground coal mines.

Defibrillators are to be installed by March 8 at the state's 36 underground bituminous mines, which employ more than 5,000 people, the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday. The devices are to be placed on the surface near the mine entry, and underground in each active, working mine section.

“These defibrillators will help save lives in our underground mines,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said in a statement, adding Pennsylvania has gone an unprecedented 42 months without a fatality in an underground mine.

A citizen's suggestion about two years ago led to the new rule, which will appear in Saturday's issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin, DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said.

Defibrillators use short, electric shocks to restore a stable heart rhythm in someone having a heart attack. Under the rule, no worker would be more than 1,000 feet from a device, Sunday said.

The state's Board of Coal Mine Safety, which includes DEP, United Mine Workers and coal mine operator representatives, came up with the regulations that also require emergency medical technicians to be trained to use the equipment.

“It's a good thing to put defibrillators in mines. I've been in many mines that have them already” in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states, UMW spokesman Phil Smith said.

Sunday didn't have the name of the person who suggested the rule, but said officials had to take time to study whether the electronic devices would be safe in mines.

“The concern with having anything underground was the potential for a spark,” he said, but with new technology and safety standards, “There is a way now to have them underground, and operate safely.”

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or

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