2015 was the safest year yet for the U.S. mining industry. MSHA recently released the official figures reporting 28 fatalities for all U.S. mining last year, down from 45 mining-related deaths in 2014. Of the 28 fatalities, 17 were in metal and non-metal mining, while 11 were recorded in coal mining. “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. This is good news as safety initiatives put in place continue to save miners.
MSHA recently issued a safety alert emphasizing the importance of seasonal safety. According to a new safety alert from NSSGA and the MSHA Alliance, slips, trips and falls accounted for 19% of injuries in the aggregates industry during 2014. With colder weather around the corner we need to be more careful when it comes to working in harsher conditions as the risk for slips and falls only increases. Best practices in the alert include:
- Task train all persons to recognize all potential hazardous conditions that can decrease bank or slope stability, and ensure that they understand safe job procedures for elimination of the slopes.
- Train people to recognize the hazards of working near belt conveyors.
- De-energize and block belt conveyors against motion before working near a chute, drive, head, tail or take-up pulley.
- Lock-out and tag-out all energy sources to belt conveyors before working on them.
- Always use fall protection when working where a fall-to-below hazard exists.
- Establish policies and procedures for safely clearing plugged material in a jaw crusher.
- Maintain and use all available methods of communication, such as sirens and radios, to warn people of an impending blast. Establish methods to ensure that all people are out of the blasting area.
- Always wear a life jacket where there is a danger of falling into the water.
“NSSGA encourages all operators to review the alert so they can be prepared to work safely, and demonstrate full compliance with standards addressed in the above-mentioned best practices,” said Joseph Casper, NSSGA vice president of safety.
With cooler days on the horizon, October is often the month that mines begin annual shutdown activities, ranging from disassembling of portable plants and relocation of equipment to, for mines that operate full time, annual repairs. Unfortunately, October is also a month of high fatalities in the metal and nonmetal mining industry. This year, MSHA has launched an initiative to help combat the historically high death rates that occur during the month of October. The initiative includes enhanced enforcement and education and outreach, such as informational “walk and talks” at mine sites. Coal enforcement and personnel from MSHA’s Educational Field and Small Mines Services will assist in these activities by talking to mine operators and miners and calling attention to potentially hazardous tasks and conditions and best mining practices.
Best practices include:
- Identifying hazards through effective workplace exams
- Controlling hazards through a detailed work plan
- Providing effective task training based on the work plan
- Locking out and blocking equipment against hazardous motion
- Providing necessary PPE
For more information, check out this article.
MSHA is now considering a rule that would require all mines to use an equipment warning system to protect miners from being run over or crushed. The proposed technology is called a proximity-detection system and uses electronic sensors to detect motion as well as the distance between a miner and a machine. Audible and visual warnings signal when a machine comes too close to a miner, and the system is programmed to stop automatically before hitting someone. The proposed rule would require companies to install the technology on machines including ram cars and scoops, which are used to move coal. “This proposed proximity-detection system rule would better protect miners from being crushed or pinned in the confined underground mine spaces where large equipment is constantly in motion,” MSHA chief Joseph A. Main said.
“I think everyone is going to see an increased enforcement effort from MSHA,” agency chief Joe Main told attendees at a conference call on August 5, following the death of three Metal/Non-Metal miners just two days earlier.
After stepped up enforcement in June 2014 and February 2015 to limit Metal/Non-Metal fatalities in the mining sector, as well as increased outreach, education and training efforts, MSHA has decided to boost enforcement resources by reassigning 17 coal inspectors to the Metal/Non-Metal sector and hire 21 more inspectors in its third initiative to limit fatalities. MSHA also plans to step up outreach to Metal/Non-Metal operators, with special attention to mines with 10 employees or less. Read more:
Information on recent fatalities, a press release announcing the latest initiative, and a letter to stakeholders can be found on MSHA’s website at http://www.msha.gov/fatals/summaries/PreviousSummaries.asp and http://www.msha.gov/media/press/2015/msha-downloads.asp.