Mining Fatalities: Should More Be Done?

The mining industry is one of the most dangerous industries, causing many fatalities each year.  With hazards ranging from cave-ins to hazardous gases to falls, miners brave a variety of potential injuries, illnesses, and fatalities each day they go into work.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is well-informed about the safety hazards associated with mining and has launched several initiatives in recent years to assist mining companies with health and safety. These initiatives also help MSHA identify mines with a history of health and safety problems for enforcement actions. However, MSHA recently issued third-quarter fatality data for 2014 and it is clear more needs to be done.

Third-Quarter Fatalities

During the third quarter (July 1 – September 30) of this year alone, there were a total of eight miners killed in accidents at work, bringing the number of U.S. mining deaths to a total of 30 during 2014 so far. Compared to the same three-month period in 2013, nine miners died in accidents.

Below is a table comparing the end of year fatalities of metal/nonmetal mining accidents during a five-year period, according to MSHA.

Year End of Year Total Fatalities
2010 23
2011 16
2011 16
2012 16
2013 21
2014 To Be Determined

There was a 30% decrease in end of year fatalities from 2010 to 2011, with fatalities remaining constant during 2012. However, in 2013, there was a 31% increase in end of year fatalities. In 2014, of the 30 mining deaths so far, 18 of them have come from metal/non-metal mining accidents. Will there be another increase in the total end of year fatalities in 2014 for metal and nonmetal mining accidents? Due to the lack-of consistent improvement, another increase would not be surprising.

Accident Prevention 

Of the eight mining fatalities during the third quarter, five were killed in metal and non-metal mining accidents. Three of the deaths occurred in coal mining. All of the metal/non-metal deaths occurred on the surface. According to MSHA, these types of accidents could have been prevented by:

The safety prevention strategies mentioned above must be accompanied by effective safety training and safety programs. According to Joseph A. Main, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, “These deaths are a harsh reminder of why mines must be vigilant in ensuring effective safety programs and fostering a culture of safety first.”

What do you believe would have the most powerful impact on decreasing deaths in the mining industry?