The Health and Safety Laboratory at Harpur Hill is the present day successor to the following series of developments:
1924: The Experimental Station of the Safety in Mines Research Board
1948: The Safety in Mines Research Establishment, Ministry of Fuel and Power (later Ministry of Power)
1975: The Research and Laboratory Division, Health and Safety Executive
1995: The Health and Safety Laboratory (still part of HSE)
From 1924 onwards, the laboratory was part of a larger unit, with the main laboratory in Sheffield but, in 2005, a new large laboratory building was opened at the Harpur Hill site to accommodate all of the work at the Sheffield laboratory and the existing work on the site. This is the building referred to in the Introduction.
Kellingley, the last deep coal mine in Great Britain, closed in December 2015, bringing to an end many centuries of deep coal mining in this country (some open cast coal extraction continues). Any form of mining for minerals has associated safety problems but it has long been recognised that coal mining has additional safety problems because of the possibility of the emission of flammable gas from the coal seams as they are worked. This flammable gas, mainly methane and traditionally referred to as "firedamp" is absorbed within the coal seam and released as the seam is fractured; the quantity of gas released varies from seam to seam and, for a given seam, usually gets larger as the seam is followed to lower depths.