Preliminary data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) show 28 miners died on the job in 2015 - a 37 percent improvement from 2014, when 45 miner fatalities occurred - making 2015 the first year with fewer than 30 mining deaths. But in the first three weeks of 2016, the coal industry experienced three fatalities in three separate mining accidents, the highest number of coal accidents to occur in the same time period since January 2006.
MSHA plans to ramp up its targeted enforcement, education and outreach efforts to respond to the troubling number of mining fatalities that have occurred so far this year.
Seventeen of the 28 deaths in 2015 occurred in metal and nonmetal mining. Nevada led with four, followed by Missouri with two, and one each in California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The leading cause of death in these mines was machinery accidents, which led to five deaths, followed by falling materials that killed four miners.
The remaining 11 fatalities occurred in coal mines – three in Pennsylvania; two each in Kentucky, Illinois and West Virginia; and one each in Alabama and Virginia. The leading causes were powered haulage and machinery accidents, which accounted for six deaths.
“While coal mine closures had some effect on the historic low number of mining deaths, actions by MSHA and the mining industry to improve mine safety have been a major factor,” said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.
Main credited the agency’s use of strategic enforcement tools, including special impact inspections that quickly address problem mines and the retooled Pattern of Violations procedure that targets mines with chronic violations, along with compliance assistance, training and outreach efforts to the mining industry.