MSHA: Miner deaths decrease overall, but machinery-related fatalities up
Arlington, VA — The “collective effort” of mine industry workers and stakeholders in 2022 contributed to a 21.6% decrease in worker deaths over the previous year, Mine Safety and Health Administration head Chris Williamson said during a recent conference call.
MSHA recorded 29 miner deaths in 2022 – eight fewer than in 2021. During the call with agency stakeholders on Jan. 25, Williamson said the decrease represents “a lot of hard work from a lot of people: industry, labor, grantees, others that are involved in the industry, and of course our own MSHA employees and all the work that we do at MSHA.”
Still, Marcus Smith, chief of MSHA’s Accident Investigations Division, presented data showing that 10 fatal incidents in 2022 involved machinery – up from eight the previous year and four in 2018.
“That represents an upward trend,” Smith said. “That’s something that we need to take notice of. We need to be aware of and work together to prevent these types of accidents.”
Smith named the top three root causes of machinery-related fatalities over the past five years. These involved the failure of the mine operator to:
- Provide adequate training.
- Ensure that guards were in place while equipment was in operation.
- Block equipment against hazardous motion before performing repairs or maintenance.
MSHA advises mine operators to develop and implement written procedures to ensure MSHA-required training is provided.
Also discussed during the call:
- In December, MSHA issued a Pattern of Violations notice to a Morton Salt Inc. mine in New Iberia, LA, marking the first time since 2014 the agency used one of its strictest enforcement tools.
“There’s no reason for any mine to ever be put on a POV, just to be honest,” Williamson said. “Because we have a POV calculator on our website and we have a [significant and substantial violations] calculator on our website.”
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 authorizes MSHA to issue POV notices to operators who “demonstrate a disregard for the health and safety of miners through a pattern of significant and substantial violations.”
- MSHA in January launched a Facebook page. “We’ll be posting a lot of good information on there,” Williamson said.
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