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MSHA Releases Midyear Mine Fatality Update

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released a midyear summary of mining deaths across the country. During the first half of 2012, 19 miners died in work-related accidents at the nation's mines.

Among nine metal and nonmetal mining deaths, four were attributed to powered haulage incidents, two were the result of a falling face/rib/highwall, and one each was linked to an accident involving machinery, falling material and a person falling.

Among 10 coal mining deaths, three resulted from slips or falls, two from rib falls and one each from the following categories: exploding vessels under pressure, drowning, handling materials, machinery and electrical. An uncharacteristic trend identified is that five of these fatalities – three involving mine supervisors – occurred on five consecutive weekends.

“While 19 is the second-lowest number of mining deaths recorded in mining midyear, we know that these deaths are preventable,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Many mines operate every shift of every day, year in and year out, without a fatality or a lost-time injury. Mining workplaces can and must be made safe for all miners.”

MSHA has taken a number of actions to identify mines with health and safety problems, and has initiated several outreach and enforcement initiatives, including “Rules to Live By,” a fatality prevention program highlighting the safety and health standards most frequently cited during fatal accident investigations.

Fatalities can be prevented by using effective safety-and-health management programs in the workplace. Workplace examinations for hazards – pre-shift and on-shift, every shift – can identify and eliminate hazards that kill and injure miners. Effective and appropriate training positions miners to recognize and understand hazards and find ways to control or eliminate them. Furthermore, miners must be free to exercise their rights under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and be full participants in maintaining a safe and healthful workplace.

“We believe these actions, along with initiatives by the mining industry, can make a positive difference,” said Main.