Twenty of the miners who died in mobile equipment accidents at metal and nonmetal mines since 2005 would have survived the accident had they been using their seat belt. The ages of the victims ranged from 21 to 65 years, with job experience varying from as little as four, eight and twelve days up to 43 years. More than one-third of the deceased miners had twenty or more years of mining experience. Even supervisors were counted among the unbuckled victims.
We all know seat belts save mining lives. Dozer operators have ridden their machines over benches and off highwalls and walked away. Truck drivers have overturned vehicles and exited the cab unharmed. Recently a dump site weakened by heavy rains collapsed under a haul truck, sending the truck and driver 120 feet down a steep and rocky embankment. Rescue workers who rappelled down to the wreck found the driver still buckled up and suffering only a head bump. Regretfully, despite such stirring stories of survival, not all equipment operators buckle up each and every time they start their machine.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) are working together through their alliance to increase seat belt usage among equipment operators to help achieve the objective of “ZERO INJURY, ZERO HARM.” The accompanying Safety Alert calls attention to the engineering and administrative control components of an effective seat belt policy at your site.
- Seat Belt Safety Alert recently published on MSHA’s website: Seat Belt Safety Alert.
- The Spanish language version: Seat Belt Safety Alert (Spanish).
These Alerts, plus one on Seat Belt Tampering and the recent Truck Driver Seat Belt Save described above, are available on MSHA’s Metal and Nonmetal Resource page under Monthly Fatality Prevention Initiatives, October 2016. Alerts published in previous months may also be accessed on this webpage.
Mine supervisors and co-workers can improve and reinforce seat belt use consistency by observing and intervening whenever they see someone not buckling up, and by speaking up and getting fixed seat belts that are worn, malfunctioning or have been tampered with. MSHA plans to conduct “Walk and Talks” at mine sites again this month to discuss seat belt use on mobile equipment, convince mobile equipment operators to commit to wearing their seat belt, persuade them to be their “brothers’ and sisters’ keeper,” and thankfully accept and act on what may be life-saving interventions by their co-workers. Please join MSHA in this important effort.