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MSHA announces increased education, outreach and enforcement to combat increase in NMN mining deaths

On January 30, 2015, Joseph A. Main, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, sent the following letter to stakeholders in the metal and nonmetal mining community to announce heightened efforts to reduce fatalities. MSHA also held outreach conference calls with key stakeholders in the industry, and distributed this PowerPoint presentation detailing the 37 deaths since October 2013 and outlining best practices that could have prevented them.

Dear Stakeholder,

In the past 16 months, there have been 37 mining deaths at Metal and Nonmetal mines, four of them just since the New Year. Prior to October 2013, the industry had experienced several years of record low fatalities.

This increase in mining deaths is unacceptable for our industry. Beginning February 2, 2015, MSHA will be increasing its efforts through education, outreach and enforcement to address this increase, and will be enlisting the support of the entire industry to refocus on safety and redouble our efforts make mines safer for our nation’s miners.

MSHA’s efforts will focus attention and the enforcement tools available to us on the types of conditions that have caused these deaths, and on the specific categories of work where increased deaths have occurred. MSHA inspectors, managers and educational field staff will be engaging with miners and mine operators to talk about this troubling trend and the need to ensure that safety standards are met, proper training is conducted and engrained, and protections are in place to protect miners.

Please see this link for a presentation with detailed information about these 37 deaths. The available data indicate a number of spikes in particular occupations, job classifications, and commodities, and these are areas in which we should all focus our attention. The table below compares the fatalities since October, 2013, to the average of the previous three fiscal years to provide guidance on where these increases are occurring and where extra attention should be paid.

MNM Fatality Reduction Effort
Criteria Oct 2013 - Jan 2015 2011 - 2013 (AVG)
  • powered Haulage
  • Sliding and falling material
  • fall of persons
  • 9
  • 7
  • 5
  • 7
  • 3
  • 2
  • supervisor
  • miner/laborer
  • truck driver
  • 9
  • 11
  • 7
  • 3
  • 2
  • 2
  • sand and gravel
  • cement
  • 9
  • 4
  • 3
  • 1
    Mine Type
  • underground
  • surface
  • 10
  • 27
  • 4
  • 13

Many of these deaths involved deficiencies that should be part of any safety and health plan, such as daily and effective workplace exams to find and fix hazards; training, in particular task training for miners and supervisors performing work; providing and using personal protective equipment (seat belts, life vests, fall protection); de-energizing and lock out/tag out procedures; and pre-operational equipment checks followed by prompt management action to address deficiencies. These are safety fundamentals, which if done and done correctly will save lives.

We look forward to working with all mining industry stakeholders to address the increase in mining deaths with energy, urgency and resolve.

Thank you for your interest in mine safety and health.

Joseph A. Main
Assistant Secretary, Department of Labor
Mine Safety and Health Administration