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U.S. Mining Deaths Continue to Trend Downward in 2016

By Sally Murdoch

Less deaths in U.S. mines in 2016 than ever recorded

For the approximately 330,000 miners working in more than 13,000 U.S. mines, conditions are now safer than ever according to newly released preliminary data. In 2016, there were fewer fatalities in the mining industry than ever before, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). An MSHA news release distributed in late January announced that 26 miners died in work-related accidents in 2016, down from 29 in 2015. The figure represents the lowest annual count of mining deaths ever recorded for the United States.

A Growing Culture of Safety in U.S. Mines

What does MSHA credit for less mining fatalities this year? A number of reasons, according to agency head Joseph A. Main. Topping the list is mine operators putting effective safety and health programs in place that address specific mining conditions and hazards. Another is thorough examinations to assure that the conditions and hazards leading to past mining deaths and injuries have been identified and fixed before they pose future dangers to mine workers. The third reason for enhanced safety in 2016 is proper training of miners on hazards and conditions that could cause injury, illness, or death as they perform their duties.

“We have reached a new era in mine safety in the past few years,” said Main. “Each year since 2009, injury rates have dropped, and the number of mining deaths and fatality rates were less than in all prior years in history — except in 2010, when the Upper Big Branch mine disaster occurred.”

Mining Deaths by the Numbers

MSHA claims there was a total of 17 deaths reported in metal and nonmetal mines in 2016, and none occurred underground. The leading causes of death in U.S. mines were machinery accidents and powered haulage. States leading the fatality rates were Mississippi and Texas, with two deaths reported in each, followed by one each in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

Nine of the 26 fatalities occurred in coal mines in West Virginia (4), Kentucky (2), and one each in Alabama, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. In 2015, coal mining deaths dropped to 12, which is the previous historic low.

2016 is also the second year that mining deaths dropped below 30, following 2015 when 29 deaths were reported. As of late January 2017, two miners have died in 2017.

Snapshot of 10 Deadliest Hazards for Miners snapshot

Graphic Products Addresses Mine Safety

Safety leader Graphic Products provides numerous resources to improve safety in and around mines. The company offers a free Best Practice Guide to Continuous Improvement in Mining to help improve efficiency and organization and enhance teamwork throughout mines of all sizes.

The company released a 10 Deadliest Hazards for Miners infographic in late 2016 offering a look at relevant statistics and information. The thought behind the infographic is that by identifying mining hazards, mine employees will be more cognizant of the dangers surrounding them and will be compelled to make safer decisions impacting themselves and others while working.

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