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Update from the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) completed a major upgrade to its primary data system – the Mine Data Retrieval System (MDRS) – bringing increased functionality and more intuitive navigation to this widely used feature.

The MDRS offers a variety of tools to help operators monitor their compliance with MSHA regulations. The system provides access to comprehensive mine location, status, ownership, employment, production, accident/inspection/violations history and health-sampling data.

Additionally, MSHA’s compliance assistance calculators – Pattern of Violations (POV), Significant and Substantial Rate, and Violations per Inspection Day – can also be accessed on the agency’s website, The MDRS gateway is the most visited page on the website.

All the standard reports previously provided are still available, but now MSHA-wide statistical reports providing real-time data are also tied to the MDRS. Furthermore, the new system provides advanced search capabilities where users can select entire industries, multiple mines, and ownership groups. The platform also allows users to export datasets into either Excel or PDF for further analysis.

“The new Mine Data Retrieval System will simplify the process for operators and others to obtain key data points and compare the safety of their mines with industry standards,” said MSHA Assistant Secretary David G. Zatezalo.

The upgrade has been in the works for more than a year and was guided in part by input from stakeholders, including mine operators and associations, who participated via three webinars. A beta version was run side-by-side with the original platform on the agency homepage as MSHA gathered feedback and refined the system.

The new MDRS is now the exclusive gateway to this real-time data, posted at

Fire Suppression

In September 2018, three mobile equipment fires were reported in which fire suppression systems failed. One miner died from severe burns, another was injured.

To avert future injuries, MSHA quickly identified all mobile equipment with fire suppression systems being used in U.S. mines – a total of 4,288 vehicles. By mid-January, each piece of equipment had been inspected for proper installation and functioning of the suppression system. Mine operators and miners were also advised of best practices.

MSHA reminds mine operators that they are responsible for ensuring that adequate and effective fire protection equipment, which includes fire suppression systems, is provided.  It’s also the responsibility of mine operators and miners to ensure that fire hazards on surface vehicles are adequately eliminated and/or mitigated.

Fully compliant systems adhere to the requirements in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 17 and 17A (Standards for Dry and Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems), the system manufacturer’s recommendations, as well as 30 CFR.  

MSHA wants operators to contact manufacturers when necessary and check their fire suppression systems to ensure they will operate in case of a fire.

If a fire does ignite, it is imperative that miners have a means to dismount equipment quickly and safely. MSHA encourages manufacturers of surface vehicles, as well as mine operators, to develop and install evacuation methods that allow a miner to stay away from areas of the vehicle where, historically, fires have started. Such areas include the engine and battery compartments and hydraulic hoses.

Adequate task training must be performed so equipment operators and mechanics will be able to maintain equipment, respond correctly to alarms, use fire suppression systems properly, and safely dismount equipment in an emergency. Mine operators should provide refresher training as needed.

MSHA will continue to seek feedback and improve the MDRS to assist all stakeholders and the general public in monitoring the safety and health of the nation’s miners.

MSHA has posted information on the initiative, including a detailed presentation on inspection of fire suppression systems and an inspection checklist that may be used by MSHA inspectors for reviewing the systems and operator compliance. Go to


MSHA announced that 49 mine operators have either taken steps to enter into payment agreements or satisfied their delinquent debts, resulting in $5.2 million in recovered fines.

“A robust Scofflaw Program is critical to protecting the health and safety of our nation’s miners,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Zatezalo. “Failure to pay penalties is unfair to both miners who deserve safe workplaces as well as operators who play by the rules. While 90% of all penalties assessed for health and safety violations are paid in a timely manner, MSHA will continue to use all available enforcement mechanisms to collect unpaid fines.”

In March 2018, MSHA Assistant Secretary Zatezalo announced plans to strengthen the Scofflaw Program, an initiative aimed at collecting unpaid fines from delinquent mine operators. Following the announcement, MSHA delivered 30-day demand letters to an initial list of delinquent mine operators, providing them with an opportunity to set up a payment plan and making clear the consequence of non-payment.

If mine operators fail to show good faith and make penalty payment arrangements, MSHA pursues collection of the fines owed through all legal means at its disposal. If necessary, MSHA can pursue a Mine Act 104(b) withdrawal order, which forces mine operators to cease production until fines are resolved. To date, MSHA has issued 12 104(b) orders; all but two mines have reopened and resumed operations after making payment arrangements.


MSHA has reported 11 fatalities in calendar year 2019. As of this date in 2018, there were 11 MSHA fatalities reported. Five of those fatalities occurred at stone operations.

Accident Classification: Slip or Fall of Person

Location: Balcones Quarry, Comal County, Texas

Mine Controller: Cemex S A

Mine Type: Surface

Mined Material: Crushed Broken Limestone NEC

On March 7, a 46-year-contractor with three years of experience was fatally injured when he lost his balance and fell backwards through a narrow gap between two log washers and landed on a cable tray approximately 12 ft. below. The victim was changing drive belts on a log washer motor when his wrench slipped off of a bolt he was tightening, causing the loss of balance.

Best Practices

  • Always use fall protection equipment, safety belts and lines, when working at heights and near openings where there is a danger of falling.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and any hazards that may be present.
  • Have proper handrails, guards and covers securely in place at openings through which persons may fall.
  • Train personnel in safe work procedures regarding the use of handrails and fall protection equipment during maintenance and construction activities and ensure their use.
  • Conduct workplace examinations in order to identify and correct hazards prior to performing work.

Additional Information

This was the fourth MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019. As of the same date in 2018, there were three MSHA fatalities reported. This was the first MSHA fatality classified as Fall of Person in 2019.  There were no MSHA fatalities classified as Fall of Person during the same period in 2018.

Accident Classification: Machinery

Location: Millstone Quarry, Oglethorpe County, Ga.

Mine Controller: Robert E Paul

Mine Type: Surface

Mined Material: Dimension Granite

On May 13, a 59-year-old supervisor with 40 years of experience was fatally injured when the stationary crane he was operating fell 85 ft. into the quarry.

The acting chair of MSHA’s Chargeability Review Committee reviewed the death certificate, autopsy report and MSHA’s accident investigation findings and determined that the miner died from natural causes. The fatality is not chargeable to the mining industry.

At the time, this was classified as the sixth MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019.

Accident Classification: Powered Haulage

Location: West Amarillo Sand & Gravel, Oldham County, Texas

Mine Controller: Rogers Group Inc.

Mine Type: Surface

Mined Material: Construction Sand & Gravel

On May 18, a 34-year-old plant operator with eight years of experience received fatal injuries when he was ejected from a man lift basket. The victim was tramming while elevated at 28 ft. The miner was wearing a fall protection harness with a retractable lanyard but it was not secured/tied off to the man lift basket. 

Best Practices 

  • Always stay connected/tie off. Always attach the lanyard of the approved fall protection device to the designated attachment point.
  • Use boom functions instead of tram functions to position the platform close to obstacles.
  • Ensure that persons are properly task trained regarding safe operating procedures before allowing them to operate mobile equipment.
  • Do not place yourself in a position that will expose you to hazards while performing a task.
  • Ensure that access gates or openings are closed.

Additional Information

This was the eighth MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019. As of the same date in 2018, there were eight MSHA fatalities reported. This was the third MSHA fataility classified as Powered Haulage in 2019. There were four Powered Haulage accident classification fatalities during the same period in 2018.

Accident Classification: Powered Haulage

Location: River Road Quarry, Davidson County, Tenn.

Mine Controller: Vulcan Materials Co.

Mine Type: Surface

Mined Material: Crushed Broken Limestone NEC

On June 10, a 22-year-old contractor with three years of experience, was fatally injured when he was pinned between a front-end loader and a concrete block. 

The victim was working in a conduit trench, preparing to install a junction box. The plant manager was using a front-end loader above to back fill the trench. The front-end loader over travelled the edge and toppled into the trench.

Best Practices

  • Establish and discuss safe work procedures. Identify and eliminate or control all hazards associated with the task being performed.
  • Train and monitor persons on safe work positioning.
  • Keep mobile equipment a safe distance from the edge of unstable ground, open excavations, and steep embankments.
  • Operating speeds should be consistent with conditions of roadways, grades, and the type of equipment used.
  • Assure equipment operators are familiar with their working environment. Front-end loader operators must ensure personnel are not near the machine when in operation.

Additional Information

This was the 10th MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019. As of the same date in 2018, there were nine MSHA fatalities reported. This was the fourth fatality classified as a Powered Haulage accident in 2019. There were five fatalities classified as Powered Haulage accidents during the prior-year period.

Accident Classification: Powered Haulage

Location: East Sand Plant, Oklahoma County, Okla.

Mine Controller: Dolese Brothers Co.

Mine Type: Surface

Mined Material: Sand Common

On June 24, a 34-year-old contractor with 10 years of experience, received fatal injuries when he fell beneath the wheels of a tractor-trailer.

Miners were using a bulldozer to pull the tractor-trailer, which had become stuck in the sand. As the tractor-trailer began to be pulled, the victim was seen walking toward the side of the truck. The victim died at the scene from crushing injuries after being run over by the truck wheels.

Best Practices

  • Do not allow people to ride in any area of a vehicle that is not equipped with a seat belt.
  • When approaching large mobile equipment, do not proceed until you communicate and verify with the equipment operator your planned movement and location.
  • Stay in the line of sight with mobile equipment operators. Never assume the equipment operator sees you.
  • Ensure, by signal or other means, that all persons are clear before moving equipment.

Additional Information 

This is the 11th MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019. As of this date in 2018, there were 11 fatalities reported. This is the fifth fatality classified as a Powered Haulage accident in 2019. There were six Powered Haulage accident classification fatalities during the same period in 2018.