MSHA Reports Increase in U.S. Mine Deaths in 2013

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reported in early January that preliminary data show 42 miners died in work-related accidents at the nation’s mines in 2013, an increase from the 36 in 2012. While mining fatalities occurred at a record-low rate during the first three quarters of 2013, during the fourth quarter, nine metal/nonmetal miners and six coal miners died in mining accidents, a significant increase from the same period in 2012, when two metal/nonmetal miners and four coal miners died.

During 2013, 22 metal/nonmetal mining and 20 coal mining fatalities were recorded, compared with 16 and 20, respectively, in 2012. Four mining deaths in 2013 involved contractors, two each in metal/nonmetal and coal, marking the fewest number of contractor deaths since MSHA began maintaining contractor data in 1983. In metal/nonmetal mining, five deaths occurred underground, and 17 occurred at surface operations. In coal mines, 14 deaths occurred underground and six occurred at surface operations.

The most common causes of mining accidents in 2013 involved machinery and powered haulage equipment. Kentucky had the most metal/nonmetal mining deaths with four; and West Virginia had the most coal mining deaths with six.

“Mining deaths are preventable, and those that occurred in 2013 are no exception,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “While we have made a number of improvements and have been moving mine safety in the right direction, the increased number of metal/nonmetal deaths makes it clear we need to do more to protect our nation’s miners.

“It takes the entire mining community to continue to reach new milestones in health and safety. Miners need the reassurance that they will return home safe and healthy after every shift,” he said.

Main stressed that, to prevent deaths, mine operators must maintain effective safety and health management programs that are constantly evaluated, continue findand-fix programs to identify and eliminate mine hazards, and provide training for all mining personnel. Among the measures MSHA has undertaken to prevent mining deaths are increasing surveillance and strategic enforcement through impact inspections at mines with troubling compliance histories; enhancing pattern of violations actions; implementing special initiatives, such as Rules to Live By, which focuses attention on the most common causes of mining deaths; and engaging in outreach efforts with the mining community.

As featured in Womp 2014 Vol 02 -