Tag: mine safety

A new rule and a lot of money for mine safety

Mine safety inspections by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) have revealed that there are a number of frequent hazardous conditions and safety violations that repeatedly expose workers to unnecessary health and safety risks. One of MSHA’s attempts to improve the situation, a new rule, is effective as of this month.

And so is the deadline to apply for $1.25 million in grants.  Read More

A mid-year analysis of mining safety

The U.S. Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has released a mid-year report on fatalities in mining industry across the United States. Mining safety is a frequent topic in our blog and when statistics like this come out we want to share them with you.

During the first half of 2012, 19 miners died at work-related accidents at the coal and metal/nonmetal mines across the country. This is during only six months. Five of these fatalities occurred on five consecutive weekends. And three involved mine supervisors.  Read More

MSHA puts mine safety spotlight on roof control

A corner rib fall. Source: NIOSH

Less than a week ago from today, a coal miner in eastern Kentucky suffered fatal injuries when he was crushed by a rib roll. A rib control incident can mean that a mine roof or wall failed. Roof and rib fall accidents have been on the rise, and so the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is launching its 2012 roof control campaign with a focus on underground mine ribs.

To make a long story short, almost a hundred miners are hurt each year due to poor roof and rib conditions, and some of the accidents are fatal. It’s unfortunate that a mining tragedy occurred prior to the launch of this campaign, but it highlights the fact that more needs to be done to improve this aspect of mine safety. Last year, when MSHA launched this annual campaign, the agency was able to report some declines in these areas. Not so, this year.

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Mine safety compliance is improving: MSHA

Enforcement strategies for safety in the mining industry are working, despite various challenges faced over the past two and a half years and the shock of one of the worst coal mine disasters in decades, according to one of the top officials at MSHA (the Mine Safety and Health Administration).

MSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, Joseph A. Main, says the administration is making a positive difference. He delivered these remarks at a one-day seminar called “Measuring Progress Toward a Safety Culture of Prevention in Mining,” hosted by Pennsylvania State University’s Miner Training Program. Read More

Workplace safety since the Westray Mine disaster

The Westray Mine Memorial honouring 26 miners who died in the disaster.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Westray Mine disaster in Nova Scotia, one of the worst industrial workplace accidents in Canadian history. Twenty years ago, a methane explosion occurred at the coal mine, killing 26 miners working underground. The official report from a public inquiry into what caused the disaster was published more than five years after the 1992 disaster, and it found that mine safety was ignored at Westray, but that poor oversight by government regulators was also to blame.

In addition to the inquiry, there memorials, a trial (with criminal charges eventually dropped), legislation that was supposed to lead change… But many recognizing the anniversary of this disaster have also questioned whether anything has changed for the better when it comes to workplace safety in Canada.

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Mine safety in space – asteroid mining and inspections

At Field ID and Modern Safety, we take mine safety here on Earth very seriously. But when it comes to mine safety in space, some take it seriously and others don’t.

We have a lot of science fiction fans on our team (being the technology geeks that we are). If you’re a serious sci-fi fan, you know there have been many stories told that in some way involve or mention asteroid mining – the process of extracting raw materials from asteroids or small planets in order to support our future resource needs here on Earth (or elsewhere in the universe). The very first fictional mention of asteroid mining was made by Garrett P. Serviss in 1898 – in a story called “Edison’s Conquest of Mars.” Since then, the subject has appeared here and there – from an episode of “Battlestar Gallactica” to the British sci-fi serious “Red Dwarf” and even modern day video games like “Dead Space.”

But could asteroid mining itself become a reality within the next few years? Some think so… Read More

Mining leaders set “zero harm” safety goal

Mining industry leaders in Ontario have set a goal of reaching “zero harm” by 2015. About 30 mine managers and safety specialists attended a recent one-day safety summit in Sudbury with the Ontario Mining Association (OMA). According to the OMA, the group was “seeking new answers and new ideas.” Read More

Mine safety survey in the works at MSHA

MSHA (the Mine Safety and Health Administration) wants to implement an anonymous survey around safety issues in mining, but first it’s trying to find out what setting and format that will result in candid and reliable responses from miners. After the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, MSHA heard that many miners were afraid to voice safety complaints, so the agency is working to understand the problem. The agency is accepting public comment on this initiative until March 19, 2012.

Part of what MSHA wants to find out with a survey is whether miners fully understand their rights under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, and the degree to which they believe they are free to exercise those rights at work. While the current pilot is focused on coal miners and coal mining communities, MSHA’s longer-term goal is to get input from across all mining sectors.

“What we hope to ultimately learn from this pilot and subsequent survey is how we can better educate miners on their rights to safe and healthful working conditions,” said Joseph A. Main, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. “If a miner is denied the right to participate in safeguarding health and safety at his or her mine, it puts at risk not only the miner’s safety, but the safety of fellow miners.”

A sample survey can be found here. Some of the questions indicate MSHA is looking at details such as roles (whether a participant is a miner, a front line supervisor or foreman, or a mine manager), whether the workplace is unionized, and if the worker feels comfortable addressing health and safety concerns. See an example of the questions below.

“The overarching goal is for miners to be able to address health and safety concerns at work,” added Main. “But in order to achieve that goal, we’ve first got to pinpoint the reasons why some don’t speak up. We heard testimony at congressional field hearings after the Upper Big Branch disaster about miners who were afraid to make safety complaints for fear of losing their jobs. We want to know what areas of the country and in what mining sectors this and other factors affect miners’ exercise of their rights.”

MSHA is the third agency in the department to initiate this type of survey, following the Wage and Hour Division and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Mine fatalities hit near-record low in 2011

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, 2011 had the second-lowest number of mining deaths since statistics were first recorded in 1910. Earlier this month, MSHA released preliminary data on fatalities in the mining industry for the 2011 calendar year, and the administration published additional data on the fatalities this week. But despite declining fatality numbers, attention to effective safety management is the only way to reach new milestones.

“Mining deaths are preventable,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “The year that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 passed, 273 miners died and, since that time, fatality numbers have steadily declined. In order to prevent mine deaths, operators must have in place effective safety and health management programs that are constantly evaluated, find-and-fix programs to identify and eliminate mine hazards, and training for all mining personnel. It takes the entire mining community to continue to reach new milestones in health and safety. While fewer miners are dying on the job, we can never alter our focus because, as we know, things can change in a moment. Miners need the reassurance that they will return home safe and healthy after each shift.”

The data showed 37 miners died on the job at mines in the U.S. There were 21 coal mining and 16 metal/nonmetal mining fatalities last year, compared with 48 and 23, respectively, in 2010. Of the 37 fatalities reported, 12 occurred at surface coal mines, 11 at surface metal/nonmetal mines, nine at underground coal mines and five at underground metal/nonmetal mines. Nine workers died in accidents involving machinery — six in coal mines and three in metal/nonmetal mines — making it the leading cause of fatal mining accidents.

This week’s 2011 Metal/Nonmetal Fatal Accident Review provided some insight about the recorded fatalities, but we found MSHA’s list of root causes for the fatalities to be most interesting.

Root Causes for Mining Fatalities

Training inadequate

Failure to conduct examinations

No risk assessment conducted

Inadequate policies, procedures and controls

Procedures not followed or monitored

Personal protective equipment not used

Did not conduct pre-operation checks

Equipment not maintained

A number of large coal producing states experienced zero mine fatalities last year, including Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Utah. Kentucky had the most mining deaths, followed by West Virginia and Ohio. You can see some interesting differences from state to state, covering the last few years, in this chart showing MSHA data.

Mining Fatalities by State by Calendar Year

Mining safety could improve with new legislation in the U.S.

Safety compliance in mining could be in for some changes based on a new bill introduced recently by a U.S. member of congress, and neglecting proper safety in the industry could become a lot more expensive.

At the end of 2011, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito introduced the “Mine Safety Accountability and Improved Protection Act” (H.R 3697). The new bill aims to “streamline the conference and appeals process, improve implementation of mine safety and health regulation, hold violators accountable by increasing penalties — both financial and criminal — for violations of the law.” In short, the end goal is to increase mine safety and create safer workplaces for miners.

Capito’s bill was introduced on Dec. 16, only days following National Miner’s Day and the release of final reports on the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. Here’s what Capito, the co-founder of the Congressional Coal Caucus, had to say about the bill:

“As we’ve come to learn through official reports, the mine disaster that claimed 29 lives in West Virginia in April 2010 was stoppable; the catalysts of the explosion could have been addressed. In an effort to address serious shortcomings in current mine safety standards, I have introduced a mine safety bill that I hope will ignite a fruitful debate on how we can improve the effectiveness of mine safety laws, as well as create tougher penalties for those who don’t play by the rules… Mine safety is not a partisan issue.  We can work together across party lines and across the Capitol to give everyone involved in mine safety, from inspectors to operators to the miners themselves, the resources they want, need and deserve to run a safe mine.”

The changes proposed would affect all types of mines, both surface and underground operations, and the bottom line will include tougher penalties for safety violators and those who neglect proper safety procedures. A new five-member National Mine Safety Board would also be created to investigate serious accidents, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration would be given unlimited subpoena power. These are just two of the implications of this bill outlined by Certified Mine Safety Professional Adele L. Abrams, which gives an extensive list of the changes.

The mine safety bill is only in the first step of the legislative process and has been referred to committee. While the majority of bills and resolutions don’t make it out of the committee status, we hope this one does.