Neal H. Merrifield, administrator for metal and nonmetal mine safety and health for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), issued the following alert regarding seat belt safety:
"Twenty of the miners who died in mobile equipment accidents at metal and nonmetal mines since 2005 would have survived the accident had they been using their seat belt," Merrifield said. "The ages of the victims ranged from 21 to 65 years, with job experience varying from as little as four, eight and twelve days up to 43 years. More than one-third of the deceased miners had twenty or more years of mining experience. Even supervisors were counted among the unbuckled victims.
"We all know seat belts save mining lives. Dozer operators have ridden their machines over benches and off highwalls and walked away. Truck drivers have overturned vehicles and exited the cab unharmed. Recently a dump site weakened by heavy rains collapsed under a haul truck, sending the truck and driver 120 feet down a steep and rocky embankment. Rescue workers who rappelled down to the wreck found the driver still buckled up and suffering only a head bump. Regretfully, despite such stirring stories of survival, not all equipment operators buckle up each and every time they start their machine.
"MSHA and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) are working together through their alliance to increase seat belt usage among equipment operators to help achieve the objective of Zero Injury, Zero Harm.
"Mine supervisors and co-workers can improve and reinforce seat belt use consistency by observing and intervening whenever they see someone not buckling up, and by speaking up and getting fixed seat belts that are worn, malfunctioning or have been tampered with.
"MSHA plans to conduct Walk and Talks at mine sites again this month to discuss seat belt use on mobile equipment, convince mobile equipment operators to commit to wearing their seat belt, persuade them to be their 'brothers’ and sisters’ keeper', and thankfully accept and act on what may be life-saving interventions by their co-workers. Please join MSHA in this important effort."