Is the U.S. Mining Industry Moving towards Zero Fatalities?

Mining OperationMining operations have made significant progress in safety performance in recent years. The long-stated goal of achieving zero fatalities seems more feasible now, given how the number of incidences has decreased each year. What were the factors, however, that helped drive continuous improvement in mining safety?

Mine Closures Had a Significant Impact on the Statistics

Compared to previous decades, there has been a marked improvement in mine safety laws and protocols. Statistics show that only 28 miners died due to work-related accidents in 2015, while the current count of coal mine fatalities in 2016 is down to 9. Before the passage of the Federal Mine Safety & Health Act in 1977, there were a total of 2,073 mining deaths.

Mine closures have contributed most to the decline in worker fatalities. In fact, 2015 had the lowest number of workers in coal mines. Furthermore, a smaller miner workforce has also led to higher capitalization on maintenance and equipment to improve miner safety.

Improving Safety and Health Standards for Miners

The Rules to Live by Initiative launched in 2010 helped bring the frequent causes of mining deaths to public attention and led to the creation of safety and health standards to improve underground/non-metal operations. Some of these include providing safe lighting, proximity detection approaches, and protection against possible injuries. With the continued improvements to the mining process, miners are increasingly becoming safer while doing their job.

The Road to Zero Fatalities

With vastly improved mine safety standards, the goal of achieving zero fatalities is now not a remote possibility. While there are several variables that could come into play and potentially lead to a mining accident, giving miners control over as many risk factor as possible is being eyed as a possible solution.

Effective miner training on the possible hazards, therefore, is a must. Coupled with the right equipment and safety program, it’s the best way miners can handle any risks they may encounter. Furthermore, regular site assessments using geophysical logging equipment from to gather precise and accurate data, as well as a proactive mindset towards miner feedback can go a long way in achieving zero fatalities.