The fiscal year of 2016 was the “safest year in mining history” in America, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Tuesday.
24 workers died between Oct. 1, 2015 and Oct. 30, 2016, the lowest recorded figure since 34 fatalities were recorded in FY 2013, according to a statement by Assistant Secretary of Labor Joseph A. Main. There were 38 miner deaths in FY 2015.
“These numbers represent nearly a 30% drop since FY 2014,” Main said at the annual Training Resources Applied to Mining conference at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, W.V. “The extensive efforts by MSHA and the mining community that held metal and nonmetal mining deaths to three during a 7-month period were instrumental in driving these numbers.”
While the numbers are a positive marker of progress, Main urged the mining industry to remain vigilant in their safety efforts, noting that four fatal mining accidents happened this September.
“We are eroding the gain we have made on behalf of our nation’s miners. Eliminating mining deaths and reducing injuries and illnesses is a goal that must be shared by all of us. We can – and must – strive to reach zero mining deaths,” said Main.
MSHA partially attributes the record lows in deaths and levels of respirable dust to a conference call made recently to industry stakeholders, in which the federal agency told companies to “reinvigorate their efforts” in mining safety.
“We are pleased to see the industry’s progress toward achieving zero fatalities and a 50% reduction in the rate of injuries by 2020,” said David L. Kanagy, executive director of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME), an industry organization, said in a statement praising the findings. “Mine safety and education are extremely important, as evidenced by our creation of a Health and Safety Division, an increase in the number of technical sessions and symposia focused on worker safety”
Levels of respirable coal mine dust, mandated by the respirable coal dust rule in August 2014, and silica dust also analyzed by the agency also hit record lows.
“During this period, the yearly average respirable dust samples collected by MSHA from the dustiest occupations in underground coal mines fell to 0.64 mg/m3, down from the FY 2015 average of 0.70 mg/m3,” the agency said in a statement.
The agency and mine operators collected about 154,000 respirable dust samples, of which 99.3% complied with safety standards.
“The new respirable dust rule is working to reduce miners’ exposure to unhealthy conditions, and that is good news for miners,” Main said.
Sampling also occurred with continuous personal dust monitors (CPDM), with operators collecting about 40,000 readings. 99.8% of the CPDM samples were in compliance.