Turkish coal mine disaster could have been avoided with methane sensors

A recent incident of methane poisoning in a mine in Turkey caused the
deaths of mine workers, highlighting once again the dangers of underground
coal mining.

Considered one of the most dangerous work environments in the world,
underground mines expose workers to extreme temperatures and confined spaces,
both factors taking a heavy toll on any miner.

However, methane gas is another risk present down the shaft of a mine. A
naturally occurring substance, methane gas is released as part of the coal
mining process. But the gas is dangerous and potentially lethal without the
proper detection and protective equipment.

In the Turkish incident, 18 workers were trapped in the coal mine near
Ermenek, in the Turkish province of Karaman last October. Mine rescue teams
were unable to enter the entry point for a number of days due to flooding.
When the water subsided, emergency services could get to some of the men.

After 10 days in the flooded underground conditions, two miners were
found dead. Mine rescue teams pulled out another eight after an additional 12
days. Though the deaths were initially attributed to drowning due to the
flooded shaft, the hospital autopsy pointed to methane gas as the
killer.

There are also grave fears for the eight miners who are still trapped
down the mine. Due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide and a lack of oxygen,
it has been impossible to reach them. The arrival of winter in the area has
also hampered rescue attempts due to snow.

Underground mines typically install methane detectors and refuge
chambers to combat methane gas levels. People can survive for up to 30 days
inside a refuge chamber while waiting for emergency services to arrive. Instead
the miners were found huddled close to each other against a section of the mine
as they tried to escape the fumes.

Mining and other professions in similarly dangerous
environments require businesses to be up-to-speed on workplace safety and
also install the best gas detector equipment available.

In addition to refuge chambers, businesses could
introduce devices such as the testo 316-1 methane gas detectors, which are
capable of locating the smallest leaks of methane, and can be hooked on to the workers’
belt. An optional TopSafe case protects the device from dirt and impacts
belowground.

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