Fatal coal-mining accidents hit another historic low across the United States in 2015, dropping from 45 deaths in 2014. Last year, 28 miners died on the job, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Here is a look at where the deaths occurred: At metal and non-metal mines, 17 miners died. Machinery incidents (5 deaths) and falling materials (4 deaths) were the top causes. Eleven deaths happened at coal mines, with powered haulage and machinery incidents being the leading causes.
MSHA says it started “one of its most aggressive enforcement and outreach efforts” after three miners died in separate accidents in August 2015. MSHA administrators attribute the decline in fatalities to the agency’s improved oversight tools, including better outreach and training with the industry, enhanced regulation of mines with chronic safety violations and the use of special inspections that target “problem mines.” Regulators started the special inspections in April 2010, shortly after the deadly disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia. Twenty-nine miners were killed there after an explosion. It still remains one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history.
Massey’s former CEO Don Blankenship recently stood trial for his role in safety violations that regulators and many observers say led to the disaster. Last month, Blankenship was found guilty of conspiring to violate mine safety standards. He was acquitted on charges of securities fraud and making false statements to regulators and faces up to one year in prison.
During MSHA’s first year of existance in 1978, 242 miners died in workplace accidents. Since then, the annual death toll has gradually declined.