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Causes of fall fatalities at

surface mines

by Mahiya F. Nasarwanji

Surface mines can be hazardous places to                    Figure 1
    work, with approximately 5,800 nonfatal
injuries a year (MSHA, 2006-2015). Slips and            Occupations involved in 55 fatalities occuring between 2006 and 2015.
falls are a major contributor to these non-
fatal injuries, second only to material handling        The cause of the fatality that was determined
injuries. Slips and falls account for approximately
26 percent of nonfatal injuries, leading to             by MSHA as being the primary — and secondary
approximately 64,000 lost work days a year
(MSHA, 2006-2015). Adequate attention has not           when available — cause of injury were examined.
been placed on slips and falls and they continue
to be a significant cause of mining fatalities. In      The primary cause of injury was defined as
fact, 55 (11 percent) of the 487 fatal incidents
reported by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health             the event immediately preceding the fatality
Administration (MSHA) between 2006 and
2015 were due to slips and falls at surface mines       (Nasarwanji, 2016). For example, if a miner died
(MSHA, 2006-2015).
                                                        because he/she fell off of a ladder when the
    Most mines have programs to prevent slips
and falls. However, due to the high prevalence of       ladder shook because a pipe broke and struck
slip and fall injuries and fatalities, there is a need
to take a closer look at what causes fatal slip and     the ladder, then the primary cause of the fatality
fall incidents. A better understanding of these
incidents can help companies prevent future             was falling off of the ladder. The secondary
fatalities. To that end, the National Institute
for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)              cause was defined as the event that immediately
conducted a review of slip and fall fatalities to
better understand their causes.                         preceded the primary cause. In this example, the

Using MSHA data to determine the causes of              ladder shaking would be the secondary cause.
fatal slips and falls
                                                        Contributing factors that may have
    MSHA provides detailed accident
investigation reports for each fatality. These          prevented the injury were anything that would
reports include information on the chain of
events that led to the fatality and measures to         have kept any one event within the chain of
prevent a future occurrence. NIOSH analyzed
the MSHA accident investigation reports for             events from occurring (Nasarwanji, 2016). These
the 55 fatalities associated with slips and falls
between 2006 and 2015. The objective was to             factors can be controlled by the miner or the
identify trends and commonalities that can be
used by miners and mining companies to prevent          mining company. In the previous example, the
slips and falls.
                                                        broken pipe led to the ladder shaking. In that
    First, all of the MSHA fatal accident
investigation reports between 2006 and 2015             case, adequate inspection, maintenance and
were reviewed to identify those that involved a
slip or fall. Next, two researchers independently       repair may have prevented
read each slip and fall fatality report to identify
the primary job tasks of the fatally injured            the equipment failure. In   Mahiyar F. Nasarwanji is with
miner, the tasks being performed at the time of         addition, the fatality may  Pittsburgh Mining Research Divi-
injury, the cause of the fatality and the factors,      have been prevented if the  sion, National Institute for Occu-
that if controlled, may have prevented the              miner had been wearing      pational Safety and Health, e-mail:
fatality (Nasarwanji, 2016). Finally, the same          a personal fall arrest
two researchers compared and combined their             system. As this example
findings to ensure they were consistent and
reliable.	                                                  Mınıng engıneerıng    december 2016 1
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