Mine fatalities are preventable. Many mines operate every shift of every day, year in and year out, without a fatality or a lost-time injury. Mining workplaces can and must be made safe for miners.
Last year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration began providing the mining industry with quarterly information on the types of fatal accidents that are occurring and the best practices to prevent them.
We have seen a decrease in overall fatality and injury rates in the mining industry as a whole. In fact, in 2011, fatality and injury rates were the lowest ever recorded. This means that fewer miners are being killed, fewer miners are being injured, and more miners than ever before are going home to their family and friends safe and healthy at the end of their shifts. Of course, while mining deaths and injuries have reached historic lows, more actions are needed to prevent miner deaths, injuries and illnesses from occurring.
MSHA has taken a number of actions to identify mines with health and safety problems and initiated several outreach and enforcement initiatives, including “Rules to Live By,” a fatality prevention program highlighting safety and health standards most frequently cited during fatal accident investigations. We believe those actions, along with initiatives by the mining industry, can make a positive difference.
However, mine operators must take ownership of safety and health at their mines, too.
- Mines need to have effective safety and health management programs in place that are constantly evaluated and implemented. These programs should be effective enough to find and fix mine hazards and ensure effective training of all mining personnel.
- Conducting workplace examinations before beginning a shift and during a shift – every shift – can prevent deaths by finding and fixing safety and health hazards. Workplace examinations must be performed and identified problems resolved to protect workers.
- Effective and appropriate training will ensure that miners recognize and understand hazards and how to control or eliminate them.
No miner should have to die on the job just to earn a paycheck. We must all work together to ensure that does not happen. We are united in our determination that all miners go home safe and healthy at the end of each shift.
Joseph Main is the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health.