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Are mine safety measures decreasing fatal mining accidents?


Because mining accidents could result in serious and even fatal results, taking steps to avoid these types of work incidents in West Virginia and other states across the nation is imperative. Mine safety is crucial to ensure the health and safety of miners as such measures seek to ensure that no unnecessary risk to health is being made in the work environment.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, recently reported on the trends of mine safety and health over the past 35 years. In 1977, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act was passed, and the following year it was reported that 242 miners died in mining accidents. Since then, MSHA has focused on ways to reduce these fatal incidents though outreach programs, education, training, and technical support to the mining industry. The tactics have worked, as mining deaths have dropped dramatically in the last 30 years.

While the number of fatalities has been declining, the number of injuries and fatalities occurring in mines is still a concerning issue. In the fiscal year 2014, MSHA reported that there were a total of 13,608 operating mines in the U.S. with a total of 366,584 miners working nationwide. In 2014, there were a total of 45 fatalities and an injury rate of 2.44 per 200,000 hours worked. The previous year there were 374,522 miners working with a total of 42 fatalities, and in 2012 there were 387,878 miners working and only 36 fatalities occurred. Additionally, 121,474 citations were made for various health and safety violations occurring in mines.

So, are mine safety measures decreasing fatal mining accidents? As these statistics show, while the number of miners has decreased over the past few years, there has been a small increase in fatalities. This is troubling and can cause many to question the current effectiveness of mine safety programs. Causing further concern is, the number of violations occurring in mines across the nation, which is high and they could be contributing to the number of fatal mining accidents.

Workers harmed, and the surviving family of those killed, in a mining accident have rights afforded to them if the incident was work-related and was caused by the negligence of their employer. Injured workers and family members of deceased workers could seek workers' compensation benefits and, in the event of negligence, an additional personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Taking these actions could help offset medical expenses and lost wages caused by an incident, allowing the victim and/or his or her family to find financial stability in a time of upheaval.

Source: Mine Safety and Health Administration, "Mine Safety and Health At a Glance," July 20, 2015

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