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A Different Perspective

By Randy K. Logsdon

A tool that MSHA is using in its continuing initiative to reverse the trend in fatal injuries experienced recently in the Metal/Non-Metal segment of the mining industry is a “2014 Fatal Comparison Chart” that constitutes a breakdown of how, when and to whom the fatal injuries occurred. This was produced from preliminary data accumulated during the 2014 calendar year concerning 28 fatal injury incidents.

Demographic # Fatal Injuries *
Underground 5
Electrical 1
Hoisting 1
Age 30-39 3
Experience 6-10 Years 4
Mine Site Experience 21-30 Years 1
Job/Task Experience 6-10 Years 1
Wednesday 2
Saturday 2
Non-Cement & Aggregate commodities 0-1 each **
*# Fatal Injuries in 2014 of the 28 experienced in M/NM mining
** 2 in Clay mining

The two pages of data are arranged to highlight the trouble areas that may be identified as high-risk for fatal injuries with the presumption that by identifying the critical demographics, those miners who fit the high risk profile will employ strategies designed to prevent future such fatalities and therefore reverse the trend. The figures provided represent raw data – actual numbers of fatal injuries in the various categories. No context regarding the percentage of the population is provided.

Using the information provided, we would be led to conclude that a surface miner (23 of 28) exposed to the risks of powered haulage (8 of 28) or to the potential for slips and falls (8 of 28) who’s age is 50-59 (11 of 28) with 11-30 years of experience (11of 28) and less than five years mine-site and task experience (16 of 28) working on a Monday (9 of 28) or on a Friday (7 of 28) at an aggregates (10 of 28) or cement (4 of 28) operation is at the greatest risk of perishing on the job.

Other than raising awareness, what strategy can be directly applied to affect these categories? We will continue to mine aggregate at surface operations and produce cement. We will continue to work on Mondays and Fridays. The age and experience (in years) of our employees is what it is. We can work at improving conditions and processes that involve powered haulage and that may be susceptible to slips and falls. What more do you tell your employee who fits this profile? There may be an alternate approach.

Demographic # Fatal Injuries *
Surface 23
Powered Haulage 8
Slips & Falls 6
Age 50-59 11
Experience Less than 5-years 11
Mine Site Experience less than 5-years 16
Job/Task Experience less than 5-years 16
Monday 9
Friday 7
Cement 4
Limestone 3
Sand & Gravel 7
*# Fatal Injuries in 2014 of the 28 experienced in M/NM mining

This is not the first time that we’ve been presented with these type of data. There may have been some variation in the numbers – even the categories. It feels a bit like déjà vu. Perhaps out of curiosity, this time I focused on the low numbers – the groups and environments that were less likely to succumb to a fatal injury. What if we could glean some wisdom from success? What if we just asked why?

  • Why are Wednesday and Saturday the “safest” workdays?
  • How do mid-range age and experienced workers approach their work that leads to fewer fatal injuries?
  • Are there better safeguards and procedures around hoisting and electrical work? Perhaps there is greater respect, given the potential dangers?
  • One might note that the vast majority of M/NM miners work surface operations. That might account for the low number of underground fatalities. But are there not greater risks in the underground environment?
  • What is the secret to their success? Can we tap that secret?

I don’t have the answers – perhaps some theories. What do you think?