Development of SCBA
of the development of self-contained breathing apparatus goes quite far back
in time, though in the early days most of the attention was given to
designing a unit to protect firemen from smoke inhalation.
design for firemen dates back to about 1825 when the "smoke filter" was
used. It consisted of a leather hood and a hose that was strapped to one of
the wearer's leg. It did not contain its own supply of oxygen. Rather, it
was designed so that when the wearer inhaled from inside the hood, air would
be drawn up through the hose.
behind this design was that the best air during a fire is closest to the
floor. The hose and hood was intended to provide this better air to the
firemen as they worked in smoke.
equipment was designed to provide the firemen with good safe air to breathe
for short periods of time. One such design was the "supplied air suit" which
was filled with fresh air to breathe.
design for firefighters was a bag-like unit filled with fresh air and
carried on one's back, much like some of today's units.
divers also used some of the first self contained breathing apparatus
1853, self-contained breathing apparatus was introduced for use in the mines
by a Professor Schwann of Belgium. In that year, Schwann entered a
self-contained breathing apparatus in a competition of the Belgian Academy
of Science, and exhibited it at an industrial fair in Belgium.
In 1880, the
original Fleuss apparatus was introduced in England, and in 1903 the
original Draeger apparatus was developed in Germany.
In the United
States, breathing apparatus were introduced in 1907 when five Draeger units
were purchased by the Boston and Montana Mining Company in Butte, Montana.
that also in 1907, apparatus were first used to fight fires and explore
ahead of fresh air in the mines:
In October or November of 1907, Draeger apparatus were used by a crew
of men during the fighting and sealing of a mine fire at the Minnie Healy
Mine of the Boston and Montana Mining and Smeiting Company in Butte,
On December 6, two Draeger apparatus were used to explore ahead of
fresh air after an explosion in the Monongah Mine of the Consolidated Coal
Company in Monongah. West Virginia.
On December 19, apparatus were used after an explosion in the Darr
Mine of the Pittsburgh Coal Company in Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania.
In 1910, the Bureau of Mines
was established. The Bureau began equipping mine rescue railroad cars and
stations with apparatus and began training miners in the use and care of the
breathing apparatus. Thus, the equipment necessary for rescue work and the
trained teams to use it gradually became more available to the mines.
At first, all the apparatus
used in this country were imported from Europe. Then in 1918, the Gibbs
apparatus was designed and manufacture. This was followed by the Paul in
1920 and the McCaa in 1927. These early American-made apparatus were
designed for 2-hour use.
The development of
self-contained breathing apparatus has continued to progress through the
years. A number of different manufacturers are now producing apparatus that
are approved to be used for periods of 2, 3, and 4 hours at a time. Among
these apparatus commonly used for mine rescue work are the Draeger BG 174,
the Aerolox, and the Scott Rescue-Pak.
III. Types of SCBA
Open and Closed Circuit SCBA-
apparatus can be divided into two main categories: open circuit systems and
closed circuit systems. The basic difference between the two systems is
this: An open circuit system releases all of your exhaled air (carbon
dioxide) to the outside atmosphere through a valve in the facepiece, and
supplies you with fresh air to breathe. A closed circuit system does not
release the exhaled air. Rather, it recirculates the air through the
apparatus and purifies the air, taking out the carbon dioxide and adding
fresh oxygen to the air. You are then supplied with the air that has been
b. Primary and Auxiliary SCBA-
In mine rescue
work, apparatus are classified as being either "primary" or "auxiliary"
apparatus depending on how much air or oxygen they can supply to you when
you wear them. Primary apparatus are apparatus that have a minimum of 2
hours' service time. Auxiliary apparatus are units which provide, by law, 30
to 60 minutes' service time.
Primary apparatus are the
standard apparatus that mine rescue teams use. Part 49 of Title 30 of the
Code of Federal Regulations (30 CFR) specifies that rescue teams must be
provided with self-contained breathing apparatus that have at least a 2-hour
service time and are approved under Federal guidelines.
Auxiliary apparatus are only
acceptable for a mine rescue team member to use so long as the team member
has ready access to fresh air and has at least one rescue team equipped with
an approved self-contained breathing apparatus of 2-hours or longer rating
in reserve at the fresh air base.
Auxiliary apparatus may either
be open or closed circuit systems. Primary apparatus, on the other hand, are
designed as closed circuit systems.
c. Apparatus Approval-
In order for any
self-contained breathing apparatus to be used in mine rescue work, the
apparatus must first be approved by the Federal movement.
Back in 1918, the Bureau of
Mines began to test and approve apparatus under Schedule 13 which
established the standards for approval.
Today, the testing of the
apparatus is handled by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH). The apparatus approval is granted jointly by NIOSH and the
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
IV. History of mine rescue
a. Helmet Crews-
In 1910, however, the U.S.
Bureau of Mines was formed, and with it came the organization, training, and
''team" element that mine rescue so badly needed.
The Bureau established a
network of specially outfitted railroad cars and placed them at strategic
locations throughout the mining areas of the United States. Each car served
as a base of operations for a group of individuals trained and equipped
specifically for mine rescue work.
Because their breathing gear's
full head covering resembled a deep sea diver's helmet, the groups became
known as "helmet crews." The crews were trained to respond quickly and
professionally to disasters in their own districts, much as modern teams do.
The new helmet crews were
called on to lend a hand at several major disasters, and they were
responsible for saving the lives of scores of trapped miners. Although the
crew's access to breathing gear and other equipment was a great help to
them, their success could be attributed to more than that.
For the first time, the
rescuers had the training and organization they needed to turn an
uncoordinated, often even chaotic, rescue attempt into a well coordinated
efficient group effort. The birth of the early helmet crews clearly marked
the beginning of modern mine rescue teams.
In the 1940's, World War II spurred increasing demand for mined products, so
more miners were put to work. At the same time, the mines were becoming more
highly mechanized. These factors combined to produce more hazards, and the
result was more chance for disaster.
In terms of sheer numbers, the
disaster statistics of the 40's came nowhere near matching those of earlier
years, but they were nonetheless sobering. In 1940, for example, the Bartley
No. 1 coal mine in West Virginia claimed 91 lives. In 1942. 56 died in the
Christopher No. 3 coal mine disaster also in West Virginia. And a disaster
at the Centralia No. 5 coal mine in Illinois claimed 111 lives in 1947.
These tragedies pointed to the
need for preventing disasters by reducing the hazards that led to them.
There were big changes afoot. Even though mining was a hazardous occupation,
there were ways to make it safer.
On the state and Federal
levels, this meant establishing and enforcing laws aimed at making the mines
safer places in which to work. Mining companies also joined in the effort to
reduce mining hazards by developing safety programs and improving conditions
within the mines. To some extent, the changes worked. The number of
disasters decreased, as did the number of those who died in them.
Today, great emphasis is still
placed on establishing and enforcing mine health and safety regulations.
This continues to significantly reduce mining hazards. Modern technological
advances and increased mechanization have also made it possible for fewer
miners to remove ever-increasing amounts of materials from beneath the
earth's surface. This reduction in the number of man-hours required to do
work has also reduced the chance for disaster.