Recent deaths of miners working alone spurs MSHA outreach

May 2, 2017

In the first three months of 2017, five miners died in accidents that occurred when they were working alone on mine property. To raise awareness of the potential dangers in doing so, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has launched an initiative to focus on the hazards miners may encounter when they work in areas away from others.

MSHA announced the campaign during its quarterly training and stakeholder conference call which had more than 300 participants.

The initiative calls upon MSHA inspectors and training specialists to engage miners and mine operators in “walk and talks” during regular inspection visits. The talks will emphasize accounting for all workers at all times and providing operators with best practices for working alone.

“Mine operators should have procedures in place so they can account for the whereabouts of every miner, at the beginning of the shift, while they are working and at the end of the shift,” said Patricia W. Silvey, deputy assistant secretary of labor for operations. “They should assess whether a particular task can be safely completed by a miner working alone, and always follow established communication practices.”

Among the best practices that miners can follow are:

Think about the task: Does the miner have adequate training, knowledge, skills and equipment to do the job safely? Does the miner need help to complete the job?

  •  Always inform a responsible person where the miner will be working and traveling in the mine.
  • Before beginning any task, identify the hazards.
  • Don’t take shortcuts.
  • Use customary check-in/check-out procedures.

After two miners working alone died in fatal accidents within 24 hours of one another in January, MSHA distributed a safety alert to the mining industry.

For more detailed information on the five “working alone” fatalities in 2017, please click here.



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