June 2024
Volume 75    Issue 6

The road to zero: The 50-year effort to eliminate roof fall fatalities from US underground coal mines

Mark, Christopher


Sixty years ago, underground coal mining was the most hazardous job in the United States. Roof falls killed about 100 miners every year, more than all other causes put together. Fast forward half a century to 2016, and the first year ever with zero roof fall fatalities. Just three miners were killed by roof falls during the following six years. To understand how this historic goal was achieved, this study analyzed hundreds of roof fall fatality reports covering five decades. It found that the immediate effect of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (Coal Act) was to reduce the riskiest activities, like needlessly going under unsupported roof. Other hazards, like large roof falls, required technological developments before they were brought under control. Roof control plans, which the U.S. Bureau of Mines had been advocating since the 1920s, fostered the necessary improvements in both the safety culture and the mining technology.

Full-text paper:
Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (2024) 41:727–741, https://doi.org/10.1007/s42461-024-00956-w


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