Federal agencies Mining, oil and gas Mining_Oil_Gas

MSHA: ‘We just need to put an end’ to the rise in mining deaths

Photo: davidmariuz/iStockphoto

Arlington, VA — Mine Safety and Health Administration officials acknowledge that the industry is “not on a good track” for deaths this year.

Brian Goepfert, of MSHA’s metal/nonmetal mining safety division, made that declaration during a July 26 conference call for agency stakeholders. He also highlighted best practices to “curtail” the “alarming trend” of increasing deaths among miners.

As of Aug. 14, MSHA had recorded 27 industry fatalities this year, approaching the 30 the agency documented in 2022. MSHA reported 37 miner fatalities in 2021, ending a run of six straight years in which fewer than 30 miners died on the job. 

Among the fatalities recorded to date in 2023, 11 were related to machinery incidents.

Goepfert offered guidance to help prevent fatal incidents related to machinery:

  • Follow the manufacturer manual and instructions. Pay special attention to the elimination of potential stored energy and avoid unintended movement of machinery when performing repairs or maintenance.
  • Stay out of swing areas, pinch points or other hazardous areas when working on or around machinery.
  • Perform adequate workplace examinations and preoperational inspections of mobile equipment.
  • Always wear a seat belt.

“When we see these accidents, and we post the fatality notices and the reports online, there’s not a lot of mystery behind them,” Goepfert said. “A lot of them are repeats, and we just need to put an end to those.”

MSHA administrator Chris Williamson emphasized the importance of the agency and stakeholders working together to mitigate deaths on the job.

“If we’re seeing trends, if we’re identifying things, if there are best practices, all of those things that we can share and collaborate on with everyone in the mining community – things that we know could make a difference and better protect miners and reduce serious and fatal accidents – our agency’s going to do that,” he said.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)