Abraham is currently producing products for mines to help make mining safer, including aluminum boxes for storing breathing devices, as well as a steel cable called Lifeline.
"The Lifeline will help miners find their way around in a pitch-black mine shaft. Steel, being a conductor, gave us potential to use it as a communications line," Abraham said. "It now has been approved by MSHA (called Duracomm Signal cable). The Lifeline cable is covered with bright vinyl. Every 100 feet it has an aluminum cone on the cable and by feel, a miner can tell the direction he is traveling to get out simply by holding to the Lifeline as he walks out. The Lifeline also has a round delineator using the same material the Department of Transportation uses on highways which can be seen for 1,000 feet. The vinyl covering not only protects the miners hands from cuts it makes it very visible against the dim light and drab background in an underground mine environment."
Abraham got the idea for the steel Lifeline while sitting at home thinking about recent mine tragedies.
"Lifelines were around years ago, but they were all were made from plastic, he said, explaining that he was interested in utilizing steel because of its ability to carry radio or audio signals, which he is now doing with the new product.
"The use of steel also provided many side benefits, like strength, and flame and heat resistance," he added.
Abraham put a prototype together at his fabrication shop and showed the idea to several mine safety officials and some mine inspectors, who encouraged him to take it into full production. Abraham has received orders for thousands of the storage boxes and millions of feet of Lifeline, but he says he finds the newfound business bittersweet.
Abraham was the special guest speaker this week for the Rotary Club of Logan where he gave a demonstration of the Lifeline and other products being produced locally at his new Chapmanville facility. Abraham also spoke about making a positive impact on mine safety.
Abraham noted that all mine disasters can be very different. In recent years two major disasters were explosions, while one was a fire.
"We should never forget that most lives lost in this industry will not be from either of these types of events. We just can't take our eye off the ball. Roof control and moving equipment remain the most clear and present dangers to underground miners. In many types of emergencies, you are better off getting out fast. Statistically speaking, more miners die from roof falls than from suffocation. You can't ignore those factors," Abraham added.
"Because every mine and every emergency are different the protocols for mine rescues must be addressed, and fixed, to make them more adaptable for the specific instance at hand," Abraham said. "As recently noted by professor Larry Grayson of the University of Missouri, who is heading up a federal task force, questions remain today who should be in charge of rescue operations."
Abraham said more miner training in evacuation procedures could prove to be the most significant improvement in mine safety, to come out of recent disasters in West Virginia and Kentucky.
"Granted, in recent history, rescue teams have lost their lives from secondary explosions. But not allowing these highly skilled, dedicated teams not to attempt to a quick extraction would be very similar to the New York Fire Department saying "we are not going into any more burning buildings, they could collapse."
Although Abraham said the legislation that followed the 2006 disasters was noble in intent, he believes that consultation with local inspectors and the miners at the face would have led to a more realistic and better approach to improve mine safety and survivability.
"Leaving such matters to professional bureaucrats and lawyers caused serious issues in the new laws."
Although Abraham admits he is selling hundreds of storage boxes for SCSR (Self Contained Self Rescuers) he would rather be making a different product.
The current SCSR is a very technologically advanced tool that can provide miners with one hour of breathable air. Yet it is small enough to be worn the belt. Abraham believes it was wrong to require "additional SCSRs" as the choice of apparatus for long term survival.
"There are not only better devices out there today, such as those used by firefighters and mine rescue teams, which are positive pressure full face devices from which communication between miners is possible. Using a specific phrase defined by law suppressed the use of new technology and led to long delivery dates.
Abraham met with Logan Fire Chief Scott Beckett who showed him the types of devices used by firefighters and mine rescue teams, which he believes are better than the SCSR required currently for miners.
"It was not a secret that the numbers (of SCSRs) required were not readily available," he said. "In a recent article issued by the state they have even acknowledged that companies with greater buying power had an advantage in getting the devices over companies with less buying power."