On October 5, 2016, MSHA held an important mining industry stakeholder meeting, with a call to action to prevent mining deaths.

While there have been great strides to improve mining safety, leading to 2015 as the safest year in mining history in terms of the fewest number of mining deaths and lowest fatal and injury rates ever recorded, the mining deaths that have occurred this year make clear that much more needs to be done to protect our nation’s miners. With mining deaths nearing the same number as last year, and the need to have protections in place so every miner can go home safe and healthy at the end of each shift, there is a need for the mining community to increase efforts to curb these mining deaths. MSHA is doing just that and I know if we all apply our efforts we can prevent these mining deaths.

Just look at the efforts launched last August to curb mining deaths at metal and nonmetal mines when MSHA and the mining community jointly launched one of the most extensive efforts ever with great success. On the heels of a rash of mining deaths that began in October 2013 and resulted in 52 deaths within a 23 month period, the fatal prevention actions we all launched last August led to historic results. Mining deaths were held to just three over a nearly seven month period in metal and nonmetal and we had the longest stretch known in mining history for that sector where no miner died on the job for 133 straight days. Additionally, last year there were no mining deaths in the traditionally deadliest month of the year – October. We know we can achieve the goal of reduced fatalities because we have.

There have been 22 mining deaths through September this year, with four of those in September. Eight were in coal and 14 were in metal and nonmetal. Last year through September there were 24 mining deaths – nine in coal and 15 in metal and nonmetal. As fall begins, we are presented with one of our biggest challenges in the mining community – October historically ranks as the deadliest month in metal and nonmetal. There is a need for the entire mining community to refocus efforts on preventing these tragedies. We are taking action through a number of ways to help stem the tide of this recent trend.

We are launching a renewed effort that includes help from all the MSHA staff in Coal, Metal and Nonmetal, Educational Policy & Development, and Technical Support to get out to the mine sites with enforcement and outreach at both metal and nonmetal and coal mines. We are calling on mine operators, miners, mining organizations and associations to increase attention on conditions and hazards that are leading to miner deaths. You can find the information on the mining deaths this year and best practices to prevent them posted on msha.gov.

MSHA has issued numerous recent alerts and near misses including a metal and nonmetal co-sponsored safety alert on seat beat use with our Alliance partner, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.  In response to troubling recent trends in fatalities and nonfatal accidents, coal issued a recent Call to Safety reminding miners to “stop and take a breath” before proceeding with the next task at hand.

What can you do?

We are urging your help by conducting thorough examinations of the work place to assure conditions and hazards that lead to deaths and injuries are identified and prevented.  Also make sure your miners are properly trained to do their work and make sure your compliance program is effective. Particular attention should be paid to standards that frequently lead to mining deaths such as “Rules to Live By” and the nine standards commonly cited at underground coal mines. Please pass on the information to your miners and managers on the causes of deaths, injuries and illnesses, and the alerts being issued.

It takes the entire mining community to make sure miners have a safe and healthful work place so they can go home safe and healthy each shift.  We are counting on your help.

Joseph A. Main  

Assistant Secretary