The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released data indicating that mining fatality and injury rates hit an “all-time low” in 2011.
Fatal injuries in 2011 occurred at a rate of about .0114 for every 200,000 hours worked in a mine, down from .0234 in 2010. The total injury rate was 2.74 per 200,000 hours worked, down from 2.81 according to MSHA data.
The rate was slightly higher in coal mines, but it still declined from 2010, which included the 29 miners killed in the Upper Big Branch explosion in West Virginia.
“Even though the mining industry has achieved historic low fatality and injury rates, we know that more needs to be done, and that fatalities and injuries are preventable,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Many mines operate every shift of every day, year in and year out, without a fatality or a lost-time injury. Fatalities can be prevented through effective safety and health management programs in the workplace. Pre-shift and on-shift examinations can identify and eliminate hazards that kill and injure miners. And providing effective and appropriate training will ensure that miners recognize and understand hazards and how to control or eliminate them.”
The agency also released a third-quarter summary of mining deaths. There were six coal-mining deaths between July and September, and 11 deaths total at the nation’s mines in the third quarter.
“Of the six coal mining deaths, one miner was killed as a result of a machinery accident; two miners were fatally injured as a result of fall of rib, roof, face or back accidents; and three miners were killed in powered haulage accidents. Of the five metal/nonmetal mining deaths, two miners died as a result of falls, one miner died in a machinery accident, one miner lost his life due to falling material, and one miner was killed in a powered haulage accident,” the release states.
Main said in the news release that he believes agency actions and safety programs can make a positive difference. In previous comments, Main has said the agency strives for zero coal mining deaths.
Main spoke at a meeting of the Alpha Foundation, encouraging development of safer coal mining techniques in Charleston, WV.
“In the past, the recent past, our country has had to look at progress in other countries to solve some of our own problems,” Main said at the Alpha Foundation meeting. “I also believe we are changing that approach and we're on the path to becoming a world leader looking ahead to develop new technologies and at times, driven by past mining disasters.”
The Alpha Foundation was founded as part of a non-prosecution agreement following the Upper Big Branch disaster.
“I do believe we are moving in the right direction in this country,” Main said last week. “If you look at where we've been and were we’ve arrived at, you can really identify a progress.”
At the meeting, Main said focusing on the "why" behind mining disasters is the key to preventing them.