The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reported a pair of historic successes at the end of fiscal year 2016, and neither has anything to do with the administration’s budget.
On Oct. 12, MSHA reported that fiscal year 2016 saw the fewest fatalities in the U.S. mining industry in a fiscal year and that the data shows improved air quality in the nation’s mines.
Fiscal year 2016 was the safest fiscal year in mining history and by a great margin, MSHA reported in a release. The mining industry had the fewest number of deaths in history at 24 among the more than 13,000 coal and metal and nonmetal mines throughout the country. That was down 30 percent from the previous fiscal year low of 34 deaths set in 2013.
MSHA Assistant Secretary Joe Main also reported a milestone level of quality in the air miners in the dustiest occupations breathe. “We saw a new historic yearly average low in MSHA samples to 0.64 milligrams of coal dust per cubic meter of air (mg/m3). That was down from .70 mg/m3 in 2015.”
The FY16 results were all collected under the new respirable dust rule, which found that operator sampling also held to the historical low of 0.65 mg/m3 set in FY15, with two quarters of more frequent sampling using the continuous personal dust monitor (CPDM) device and one full quarter at the reduced standard of 1.5 mg/m3.
Main, attributed the historic safe period to increased cooperation between MSHA and the mining community, but also cautioned the mining industry to remain vigilante.
“While this low in fatalities is historic, recent mining deaths, including four in September, are eroding the gains we have made on behalf of our nation’s miners,” said Main. “We announced that MSHA is ramping up enforcement, outreach and compliance assistance actions, and provided our stakeholders information on recent fatalities. In addition, we urged them to reinvigorate their efforts to reverse the trend in mining deaths and to regain our momentum from last year, which produced the safest period in mining history.
“In addition, as fall begins we are presented with one of our biggest challenges in the mining community – October historically ranks as the deadliest month in metal and nonmetal. At MSHA, we are increasing our efforts to accomplish the goal of eliminating mining deaths, but we need the help of the entire mining community to prevent future fatalities,” said Main.
Improving the quality of air that miners breathe is about more than just coal dust. MSHA is busy working to improve the air miners breathe through efforts on silica and diesel exhaust. In March, OSHA published its silica rule and MSHA is also carefully developing a proposed rule on silica. In addition, MSHA has published a Request for Information on Exposure of Underground Miners to Diesel Exhaust.