Sammies finalist led R&D of mine visibility technology


Principal Research Engineer John Sammarco from the Pittsburgh Mining Research Division of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health discusses his career developing lighting systems to make mines safer.

Mining is full of occupational hazards. Because the work environment is dark and deep, trips and falls cause 1300 injuries per year. As part of CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Principal Research Engineer John Sammarco helped develop various pieces of safety equipment which drastically lowered workplace injuries at mines, most notably LED head lamps and safety lights.


“It is especially challenging to get new lighting into coal mines.

Coal mines are an explosive environment, they have coal dust and methane. So, they have to get approval from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. That’s a rather lengthy, involved process. But necessary to ensure that anything electrical we bring into the mine could spark and cause an explosion. Technically, that’s a difficult challenge,” Sammarco told Government Matters.

“I think from a cultural aspect of the miners, they are typically leery of anything new. When you introduce new technologies, they are typically skeptical of it… but once they get used to it, and accept it they don’t want to go back.

They want to use the technology that turns out to be better for them.”