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MSHA launches compliance assistance initiative to address accidents involving less experienced coal miners
June 20, 2017

Data recently compiled between October 2015 and March 2017 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration shows that less experienced miners – both at a mine and at a specific occupation – suffer injuries at a higher rate than more experience miners. Over this 18-month period, miners with one year or less of experience at a mine suffered 903 injuries, compared to 418 for those who had worked at a mine between one and two years. Miners with one year or less job experience suffered 603 injuries, compared to 409 for those with between one and two years job experience.

MSHA launched a training assistance Initiative throughout the nation’s coalfields to address the causes and trends in recent coal fatalities. On June 12, 2017, the agency began informing mine operators of the initiative’s planned launch, and encouraged them to participate and provide information about miners hired within the previous 12 months, and those in their current job for 12 months or less. With this information, MSHA can better focus its resources on the greatest fatality and injury risks.

“Of the eight coal mining fatalities so far in 2017, seven involved miners with one year or less experience at the mine, and six involved miners with one year or less experience on the job,” said Patricia W. Silvey, deputy assistant secretary of labor. “We at MSHA will be working closely with mine operators and miners to eliminate these fatalities.”

Staff from the agency’s division of Coal Mine Safety and Health and training specialists from Educational Field and Small Mine Services will conduct these visits to coal mines. Among their objectives are the following:

  • Review the approved training plan posted at the mine to ensure that all information is up to date, and the most recently approved plan is posted.
  • Talk to and observe work practices of miners with one year or less experience at the mine to evaluate the effectiveness of the mine operator’s new miner and experienced miner training program.
  • Talk to and observe work practices of miners with one year or less experience performing their current job to evaluate the effectiveness of the mine operator’s task training program.
  • Identify deficiencies and offer suggestions in training.
  • Work with mine operators to improve their training programs.

MSHA personnel may ask operators to allow miners with more experience at the mine to accompany agency personnel during interactions with miners who have less experience.

The initiative runs through Sept. 30, 2017.

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