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From the Desk: 4th Quarter/2014 Year-End Mining Death Results

Joseph A. Main - Assistant Secretary of Labor  for Mine Safety and Health

According to preliminary data, 40 miners died in work-related accidents at the nation's mines in 2014, two fewer than in the previous year.

Coal mining deaths dropped from 20 in 2013 to 16 in 2014, the lowest annual number of coal mining deaths ever recorded in the United States. The previous record low was 18 in 2009. While the numbers of coal mines and miners have recently declined, the number of deaths in 2014 is about half what the industry experienced in the early 2000’s, when the number of working coal miners were at comparable levels.

Twenty-four deaths occurred in metal and nonmetal mines last year, an increase from 22 deaths in 2013. The year-end numbers are preliminary because some mining deaths are still under review.

In coal mining, the most deaths occurred in West Virginia, where five miners were killed, followed by two each in Virginia, Kentucky, and Wyoming, and one each in Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, Utah, and Montana.

In metal and nonmetal mining, four miners were killed in Texas, followed by two each in Missouri, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, and one each in Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Utah, and Virginia.

In coal mining, ten deaths occurred underground and six occurred at surface operations. In metal/nonmetal mining, six deaths occurred underground, and 18 occurred at surface operations. The most common causes of mining accidents in 2014 involved powered haulage and machinery, with five of each occurring in coal mines and eight powered haulage accidents in metal and nonmetal mining.

Mining deaths are preventable, and those that occurred in 2014 are no exception. While MSHA and the mining industry have made a number of improvements and have been moving mine safety in the right direction, these deaths, particularly with the increase in the metal and nonmetal industry, make clear the need to do more to protect our nation’s miners.

During the last quarter of 2014, nine mining deaths occurred, compared to 15 during the same period in 2013. Four of those deaths occurred in coal mines and five in metal and nonmetal mines, compared to six and nine in the previous year, respectively. More information on the fourth quarter deaths follows:

In metal/nonmetal mining, three miners died in Powered Haulage accidents:  A 67-year-old truck driver was killed at a sandstone mine after a bank failed, causing the truck to overturn and fall 30 feet below; a 46-year-old contract truck driver was killed at a limestone mine when the articulating haul truck he was operating traveled over a roadway berm and went into a large pond;  and a 21-year old warehouse bagger was killed at a clay mine when the forklift he was operating overturned. One miner died in a Fall of Person accident: A 66-year-old contract driver fell while loading his truck at a cement operation. One miner died in a Falling Material accident: a 42-year-old contract supervisor was killed at an alumina operation when a 2,500-pound door fell from a crane and pinned him to the concrete floor.

In coal mining, one miner died in a Fall of Face, Rib, or Highwall accident: A 31-year-old utility worker was killed after he crawled into an entry mined with a highwall mining machine to retrieve a broken cutter-head-chain when a large rock fell on him. Two miners died in Powered Haulage accidents: A 51-year-old contract truck driver was killed when he drove his truck off a highwall and fell approximately 240 feet; and a 34-year-old repairman was killed when struck by a ram car. One miner died in a Fall of Roof or Back accident: A 49-year-old section foreman was killed when he was struck by a large rock while operating a roof bolting machine.

To prevent deaths, mine operators must maintain effective safety and health management programs that are constantly evaluated, continue find-and-fix programs to identify and eliminate mine hazards, and provide training for all mining personnel.

Among the measures MSHA has undertaken to prevent mining deaths are increasing surveillance and strategic enforcement through impact inspections at mines with troubling compliance histories; enhancing pattern of violations actions at mines with chronic violation histories; implementing special initiatives, such as “Rules to Live By,” which focuses attention on the most common causes of mining deaths; and engaging in outreach efforts with the mining community. These actions by MSHA, along with the efforts of the mining industry, are leading to safer and healthier mines.

It takes the entire mining community to continue to reach new milestones in health and safety. Miners need the reassurance that they will return home safe and healthy after every shift.

An analysis of mining fatalities, along with best practices for mining operations, is available at http://www.msha.gov/fatals/summaries/summaries.asp.

Additional Information

Summary of 2014 (4th Quarter) Fatal Accidents at Metal/Nonmetal Mines and Preventative Recommendations
Summary of 2014 (4th Quarter) Fatal Accidents at Coal Mines and Preventative Recommendations
Press Release