Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main highlighted the accomplishments in mine safety and health during the past five years at the 2016 National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association’s annual convention.
Mr Main said the efforts of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the mining community led to mine site compliance improvements, which include a reduction of chronic violators, historic low levels of respirable coal dust and silica and record low numbers of mining deaths.
“The most important measure of our progress is the number of miners who go home safe and healthy at the end of each shift,” said Mr Main.
In 2015, mining deaths fell to 28, which is a considerable drop from 46 deaths in 2014. The coal industry also recorded its safest year in 2015, with 11 fatalities reported.
Mr Main acknowledged the challenges the industry had to face before the significant improvements happened. In 2013, mining deaths started to increase after three years of record safety in the metal and nonmetal industry from 2011 through fiscal year 2013. As a result, MSHA launched fatality reduction efforts, including enhanced enforcement and extensive education and training.
In August 2015, there were three fatalities in the metal and nonmetal mining industry in Nevada, North Dakota and Virginia.
“Those three deaths threatened to reverse our progress, so MSHA upped its game once again,” said Mr Main. “We put more boots on the ground and increased our ‘walks and talks’ between inspectors and miners to raise awareness about the causes of fatalities and the best practices to prevent them.”
In October 2015, MSHA called upon industry stakeholders to help spread the safety message and conduct ‘find-and-fix’ mine site examinations.
Because of this, no death was ever recorded for the month of October, and the industry marked a record-setting 133 consecutive days without any deaths.
“That is a major accomplishment,” said Mr Main. “It indicates that zero deaths are possible if we continue to follow our roadmap and build on its success.”