The Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration has a new proposal on belt air, improved belt materials and fire protection in underground coal mines. The proposed rule change was published Thursday in the Federal Register.

"The objective of this proposed rule is to improve mine safety by significantly reducing the hazard of conveyer-belt fires in underground coal mines," said Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

The rule proposes underground coal-mine operators purchase more flame-retardant conveyor belts within a year of the final rule. Also, mine operators would be required to install carbon-monoxide sensors and smoke sensors, improve belt maintenance, and standardize lifeline signals.

Those who wish to comment have until Sept. 8. MSHA will hold four hearings on the proposal, including one Aug. 19 in Salt Lake City; Aug. 21 in Lexington, Ky.; Aug. 26 in Charleston, W.V. W.Va.; and Aug. 28 in Birmingham, Ala.