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From the Assistant Secretary's Desk — MSHA Releases 2012 Preliminary Fatality and Injury Data

Joseph A. Main - Assistant Secretary of Labor  for Mine Safety and Health
Today, MSHA is releasing preliminary data for calendar year 2012 on its Mine Safety and Health at a Glance webpage, which includes information on inspections, violations, number of mines and miners and fatality and injury rates for coal, metal and nonmetal, and all mining. The preliminary numbers for 2012 found actions undertaken by MSHA and the mining industry continue to move mine safety in the right direction, with improvements in both compliance with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, as amended (Mine Act), and a reduction in both injury and fatality rates. Most importantly, 2012 had the lowest fatality rate in the history of U.S. mining, with .0107 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. The rate of reported injuries was 2.56 per 200,000 hour worked, also the lowest rate on record.

These reductions replace last years record historical low rates and reflect a continuing downward trend in both fatal and nonfatal injuries achieved through effective implementation of the Mine Act. While one death is too many, and there are still improvements needed to reduce injuries, it is important to take a moment and acknowledge progress towards those goals. These improvements are the result of the work and dedication of all in the mining community, including MSHA, mine operators, miners and their representatives, and others. For more details on some of the actions that have been undertaken, see my March 7, 2013 remarks at the West Virginia Coal Associations 40th Annual West Virginia Mining Symposium, and my March 19, 2013 remarks at the 2013 Annual Convention of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.

Although the number of mines in the U.S. decreased slightly in 2012, from 14,176 in 2011 to 14,058, the number of miners employed in the industry increased to 387,671 from 381,209 in 2011. Thirty-five miners died on the job in 2012, two fewer than in 2011, and equal to the record low number of deaths in mining set in 2009. With the increase in employment compared to 2009, this resulted in a record low fatality rate. The number of citations and orders MSHA issued fell from 157,052 in 2011 to 140,007 in 2012, an 11% decrease. These decreases in deaths, injuries, and safety and health violations reflect improved compliance by operators, and safer working environments for miners.

In coal mining, 19 miners died in on-the-job accidents, the second fewest ever. The fatality rate was .0151 deaths per 200,000 hours worked, also the second lowest ever recorded. The rate of reported injuries was 3.15 per 200,000 hours worked, the lowest injury rate ever recorded in coal mining. The number of citations and orders issued to coal mine operators declined, from 93,451 in 2011 to 79,327 in 2012, a 15% reduction. The coal mining industry saw some decrease in the number of mines (from 1,973 to 1,865) and in coal production (from 1,095 to 1,017 million tons) between 2011 and 2012. While the number of coal miners also decreased, from 143,437 in 2011 to 137,361 in 2012, the number of coal miners was still the second highest for any year since 1994.

In the metal and nonmetal mining industries there was a record low fatality rate of .0080 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. Sixteen miners died in on-the-job accidents, equaling the record low set in 2011. The reported injury rate of 2.19 per 200,000 hours worked was also a record low. Metal and nonmetal also experienced a continued reduction in citations and orders, dropping from 63,601 in 2011 to 60,680 in 2012, a 5% reduction. While the number of metal and nonmetal mines remained steady in 2012 at 12,193, the number of miners increased from 237,772 in 2011 to 250,310 in 2012.

In past years, MSHA has released preliminary year-end data at various times following the end of the calendar year. In an effort to provide timely release of information, MSHA will be releasing preliminary year-end data for its Mine Safety and Health at a Glance page at the close of the first quarter of the next year. MSHA will release the data in April, and will update the year-end data in June. While there will always be variations in some data depending on the date we compile it as figures are corrected or updated, this change will give MSHAs stakeholders and the public reliable information on mine safety and health in a timely manner.

- See Press Release