Coal Mining: What Can Happen When Ventilation System Malfunctions & How To Test It

If you are a fire boss of an underground coal mine, there are many hazardous fumes and materials that your fellow employees are exposed to on a daily basis, and your job is to reduce the risks. Fortunately, these fumes and materials are removed from the confines of underground mines with ventilation systems that use electric motors. Here's what can happen if these systems don't work properly, preventative measures to avoid these hazardous situations, and how you can test the systems to ensure they are functioning properly.

Hazardous Situations Caused by Poor Ventilation Systems

Buildup of Diesel Exhaust

Hazardous situation: Failure in ventilation will result in a buildup of diesel exhaust which can pose a serious health risk to coal miners, which can cause irritation to their respiratory systems. Diesel exhaust is a mixture of various particles, carbon monoxide, and organic compounds that is created by the diesel engines during operation.

Preventative measures: When a failure in the ventilation system is determined, diesel engines should be powered off to prevent additional exhaust in the mine. Also, regular emissions testing of diesel engines should be done to ensure the exhaust fumes given off by the engines are at the appropriate levels determined by the engine manufacturers.

Spontaneous Combustion

Hazardous situation: A buildup of methane gas in the mine due to poor ventilation can cause spontaneous combustion. Methane gas is explosive when there are high concentrations of it present, especially in confined areas such as in coal mines. High concentration of methane is the leading cause of explosions in coal mines.

Preventative measures: Since methane is undetectable to human senses, monitors are placed throughout the mine shaft. These monitors are battery-powered so they can continue to operate when there is a reduction or failure in the power supply. Methane monitor settings should be sensitive enough to sound an alarm as soon as there is a reduction in the ventilation system.

Accumulation of Coal Dust

Hazardous situation: In addition to a reduction in the air quality for coal miners and removing dangerous gases and fumes from the mine, a malfunctioning ventilation system will cause coal dust to accumulate. Coal dust accumulation inside a coal mine poses a fire risk and can cause serious health implications for the coal miners. Inhalation of coal dust is known to cause pneumoconiosis, which is called black lung in the coal mining industry.

Preventative measures: Water should be sprayed on the coal face during the cutting and crushing of the coal to help reduce the accumulation of coal dust, particularly when there is a reduction in the function of the ventilation system.

Testing Procedures

Due to the fact that the ventilation systems rely on electric motors, it is crucial to have the motors tested regularly and when there is a cause of concern as noted in one of the situations listed above. You'll need to test the speed of the air your ventilation systems provide with an anemometer. This is a device that is placed in the center of an opening near the output of a fan in the ventilation system.

At the same time that results are displayed by the anemometer, it is important to also check the voltage and amperes of the electric motor that supplies power to the ventilation system. That way, you can determine if the cause of the reduction in airflow is due to a reduction in the power that is supplied. The voltage and amperes are determined by an electric motor test system that is connected to the motor before testing procedures begin.

A reduction in the power supplied by the electric motor will necessitate repairs so the ventilation system can function properly. If the electric motor test results do not show a problem with the motor, the air stops and interlocks of the ventilation system should be checked. Visit a site like to learn more about the testing equipment that you will need.