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MSHA: FY16 the safest year in mining history

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World Coal,

The US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has released data that indicates FY16 was the safest year in mining history.

Assistant Secretary of Labor, Joseph A. Main, announced at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, West Virginia, that from 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2016, a record low of 24 deaths occurred at the more than 13 000 mines nationwide in the US – the lowest total since 34 in FY13. In FY 2015, there were 38 mining deaths.

“These numbers represent nearly a 30% drop since FY13,” said Main, speaking at the annual Training Resources Applied to Mining conference. “The extensive efforts by MSHA and the mining community that held metal and nonmetal mining deaths to three during a 7-month period were instrumental in driving these numbers.”

Main cautioned against complacency, noting four fatal mining accidents occurred in September 2016. “We are eroding the gains we have made on behalf of our nation’s miners. Eliminating mining deaths and reducing injuries and illnesses is a goal that must be shared by all of us. We can – and must – strive to reach zero mining deaths,” he said.

For its part, MSHA is ramping up enforcement, outreach and compliance assistance actions. In a recent conference call with industry stakeholders, the agency urged participants to reinvigorate their efforts to reverse the trend in mining deaths and regain last year’s momentum, which produced the safest period in mining history.

“We are calling on all of our stakeholders, including mine operators, miners’ organisations, associations and trainers, to increase their attention to the conditions and hazards that are leading to fatalities,” said Main.

Turning from safety to health issues, Main noted that efforts to lower levels of respirable coal mine dust and silica in the nation’s coal mines remain on track. Since the 2009 launch of the “End Black Lung – Act Now” campaign, average respirable dust levels have decreased annually. Dust sampling results for FY16, collected under the respirable coal dust rule that went into effect in August 2014, dropped to historic lows. During this period, the yearly average respirable dust samples collected by MSHA from the dustiest occupations in underground coal mines fell to 0.64 mg/m3, down from the FY15 average of 0.70 mg/m3.

Mine operators and MSHA personnel have collected nearly 154 000 respirable dust samples under the new rule, and 99.3% of those samples met compliance levels.

“The new respirable dust rule is working to reduce miners’ exposure to unhealthy conditions, and that is good news for miners,” added Main.

Operator sampling with continuous personal dust monitors, which began in April, also showed positive results. From 1 April 2014, through 31 July 2016, mine operators collected nearly 40 000 valid CPDM samples, with 99.8% in compliance.

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