The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released a summary of U.S. mining deaths that occurred during the first quarter of 2014. From Jan. 1 to March 31, eight miners died in accidents in the U.S. mining industry. Three were killed in coal mining accidents and five in metal and nonmetal mining accidents. The previous quarter was marked by 15 deaths and an increase in the metal and nonmetal sector.
“We have seen a spike in deaths in the second quarter of 2014 as well, primarily in metal and nonmetal mining, which has experienced 19 fatalities since last October,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “MSHA takes this increase very seriously, and has called a summit of the key metal and nonmetal stakeholders to identify the problem and take actions to reverse it.”
During the first quarter of 2014 in metal and nonmetal mining, two miners were killed by falling/sliding materials: A 50-year-old supervisor died at a sand and gravel mine when an 80-ft.-high embankment failed and engulfed him, and a 64-year-old foreman when struck by a section of pipe. The third victim, a 34-year-old contract laborer, died after stepping into an open elevator shaft from the fourth floor landing. The fourth victim was killed in a powered haulage accident, when the 56-year-old belt operator at an iron ore mine became entangled in a belt conveyor. The fifth victim, a 27-year-old contractor mechanic, was repairing a hydraulic pump at a crushed limestone operation when he fell from a walkway and hit his head on the ground.
During a special summit with stakeholders, MSHA provided more detailed information on the 19 deaths at metal and nonmetal mines since 2013. The deaths have occurred at crushed stone, sand and gravel, silver, cement, lime, gold, granite, clay and iron ore mining operations in 12 states across the country. Six deaths occurred at underground mines and 13 at surface mines.
“Mine operators need to reevaluate the quality of the training miners are receiving and their examinations of miners’ work places because they appear to be lacking,” said Main. “MSHA will be paying close attention to these deficiencies, as well as the types of hazards and conditions that have led to these deaths, during mine inspections.”
At the stakeholder meeting Main announced that the agency will absorb the Small Mines Consultation Program within the larger Educational Field Services division. Main said the move should make for a more efficient operation. However, the bulk of the meeting was spent reviewing the spate of 19 fatalities in the metal-non-metal sector from fall 2013 to the present.
Main and MNM Administrator Neal Merrifield emphasized that inspectors will be checking to ensure thorough training on MSHA standards.
Disproportionate numbers of fatalities have occurred underground (six) and among contractors (four). The fatalities have occurred at large and small operations; most of the operations enjoy better than average injury rates.
Root causes (derived from completed investigations) include failures to:
- Provide training, including task training.
- Conduct examinations.
- De-energize power and lock out/tag out.
- Conduct pre-operational checks.
- Maintain mobile equipment.
- Provide/wear personal protective equipment.