Overall mining deaths up in 2010
NSSGA: ‘We cannot rest until fatalities among aggregates workers reach and are sustained at zero.”
by Tina Grady Barbaccia, News and Digital Editor
Mining fatalities in the United States increased in 2010, following a year marked by the fewest deaths in mining history, according to a recent report from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Seventy-one miners died on the job last year, compared to 34 in 2009. Forty-eight of those deaths occurred in coal mines, and 23 occurred at metal and non-metal operations, according to MSHA.
Of the 71 mining fatalities reported, 23 of those victims were killed in surface mining accidents, while 48 miners died in underground mining accidents, 29 of whom were killed in the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010, according to MSHA. The leading cause of coal mining deaths was ignition or explosion, followed by powered haulage and roof falls. The leading cause of metal/non-metal mining deaths was powered haulage, followed by falling or sliding material, and machinery.
“While 2010 will be remembered for the explosion that killed 29 men at the Upper Big Branch mine, we are mindful that 42 additional miners’ lives also ended in tragedy,” Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, says in a written statement. “Increasing our efforts to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for our nation’s miners is the best way to honor the memory of those who died.”
The most important task is for mine operators to “take responsibility for the health and safety conditions in their mines to prevent tragedies,” Main adds, noting that mining deaths are preventable “so actions must be undertaken to prevent them.”
Where should MSHA go from here?
Joe Casper, vice president for safety services at the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), says the association “recommends that the agency focus on the areas of the greatest risk.
“Sadly,” he tells Aggregates Manager, “five members of the aggregates industry workforce lost their lives in 2010. NSSGA’s Safety and Health Guiding Principles and our Safety Pledge remind us that we cannot rest until fatalities among aggregates workers reach and are sustained at zero.”
For almost every state and company, this is already the case, Casper says, adding that “finding what else we can do to prudently manage against fatal risk continues to be our challenge. NSSGA members are committed to workers returning home every night in at least as good a condition as when they arrived at work.”
Casper also notes that there continues to be what he says is progress in protecting workers from the highest risks as the number of fatalities reduces. There were five fatalities to aggregates operator personnel in 2010 compared to seven in 2009, according to NSSGA.
“NSSGA member companies and their personnel, from board house to scale house operators, continually renew their commitment to safer and safer operations, to eradicating fatal accidents, and to continuing reduction of injuries,” Casper says. “This applies not only to our member operations but to the industry nationwide by sharing with any other operators all we know about improving the safety and health of the entire workforce.”
MSHA has taken a number of actions to identify mines with safety issues, and has initiated a number of outreach and enforcement initiatives, including “Rules to Live By,” a fatality prevention program spotlighting the safety and health standards most frequently cited during fatal accident investigations. In addition, MSHA says it has “engaged in a number of targeted enforcement, awareness, and outreach and rulemaking activities in 2010 to reduce the number of mining fatalities, accidents, and illnesses.”
New rules and legislation: Pattern of violations and mine safety