May 1, 2013
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
According to data released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), 2012 had the lowest fatality rate in the history of U.S. mining, with 0.0107 deaths per 200,000 hours worked and a reportable injury rate of 2.56 per 200,000 hours worked.
In terms of metal and non-metal mining, the fatality rate was .0080 deaths per 200,000 hours worked, with 16 miners who died in on-the-job accidents during 2012. This figure equals the record low rate set in 2011. The reported injury rate was also below overall mining rates, with a rate of 2.19 per 200,000 hours worked, a record low.
MSHA reports that metal and non-metal saw fewer citations and orders in 2012, with those dropping from 63,601 in 2011 to 60,680 in 2012. At the same time, while the number of mines remained constant at 12,193, the number of miners increased from 237,772 in 2011 to 250,310 in 2012, indicating that the employment ranks are finally beginning to tick upward.
In light of repeated and measurable improvements in mine safety and health, it’s puzzling that 18 House Democrats opted to re-introduce H.R. 1373, the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act of 2013.
If safety improves even as orders and citations fall, why exactly do Congressional Democrats believe targeting mine managers for criminal penalties and increasing penalties is going to improve safety? MSHA currently has a backlog of about 50,000 cases of contested violations. Neither the agency nor the FMSHRC has the staff to handle the volume it already has, let alone the spike in contested penalties likely to occur should this legislation become law.
In his remarks to the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association during a March 19 meeting, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main said that, “MSHA has taken a targeted approach to rulemaking, focusing our efforts on those rules that will have the biggest impact on miner safety and health.” The Byrd Act simply doesn’t fit that criteria and should not become law.
Make sure you know how this legislation would impact you. Go to http://bit.ly/ZeWDCn and read what our online legal columnist, Adele Abrams, had to say about the Byrd Act.
And remember one of my favorite safety slogans: Keep safety in mind. It will save your behind.
3 things I learned from this issue:
1. In addition to determining the potential market, products should be considered before beginning a mine plan, page 19.
2. Once bucket teeth are worn past 50 percent of their profile, their piercing ability and performance drop rapidly, page 30.
3. FMSHRC recently held that a repeated flagrant designation may be based on past violative conduct, page 34.