U.S. mines complete safest year ever: Deaths drop to new lows in 2015
Mines in the United States completed their safest year ever in 2015, recording the fewest fatalities in the history of American mining. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently released preliminary data that indicates mining deaths in the United States dropped below 30 for the first time ever.
The official figures show 28 fatalities for all U.S. mining in 2015 — down from 45 in 2014 and the lowest since 2009, the previous record year. Of the 17 deaths recorded in metal and non-metal mining, the majority were attributed to machinery accidents and falling materials. Eleven of the 28 deaths occurred in coal mines — the fewest ever for U.S. coal mines — with powered haulage and machinery accidents accounting for six of these deaths.
“While coal mine closures had some effect on the historic low number of mining deaths, actions by MSHA and the mining industry to improve mine safety have been a major factor,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. Main credited the agency’s use of strategic enforcement tools along with compliance assistance, training and outreach efforts to the mining industry.
In the metal and nonmetal mining sector, MSHA gave credit to an aggressive effort launched in August 2015 in response to an upward trend in fatalities. For the next 134 days, no metal and nonmetal mining deaths occurred in the nation’s mines, passing the previous record in 2010 of 82 consecutive days without a mining fatality.
“While record-low numbers have been achieved, we are mindful that things could change in a heartbeat if we let down our guard. There is still much more to be done to ensure that miners go home after every shift, safe and healthy,” said Main.
In response to the report, the National Mining Association (NMA) also emphasized the importance of ongoing safety initiatives. “We’re very gratified by this continued progress because it confirms the result of our commitment to make American mines the world’s safest,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “The record confirms the value of our safety initiatives and our ongoing determination to return every miner home safely after every shift.”
One such initiative that has been especially successful in driving safety progress is the NMA’s CORESafety® framework, which aims to eliminate fatalities and reduce injury by 50 percent in five years (0:50:5). CORESafety offers a management system approach to mine safety, offering not a “top-down-one-size-fits-all” model but an adaptable and organic framework for operations of all sizes.