The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration released its 2012 review of mining accidents a few days ago, and it looks as if the agency’s renewed focus on safety has paid off. Just one shy of 2009’s record low number of mine workers killed on the job, 36 miners died last year in coal, metal and nonmetal mines. One of those deaths was here in North Carolina.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 5 million people in mining and logging jobs in North Carolina at the end of 2012. The mining industry in this state is changing, certainly, as it is everywhere. Nowadays, we are more likely to hear about gas drilling than coal and metal mining. But that does not mean that the safety of miners is any less important.
In fact, MSHA says that all mining deaths are preventable. And since the Upper Big Branch disaster in 2010, MSHA has stepped up enforcement efforts with mining companies; the agency has also worked to clean up its own operations.
The UBB investigation turned up deficiencies at the mine’s parent company and at MSHA. After overhauling the inspection and enforcement process and changing some rules that let companies put mitigation efforts on hold while appealing a citation, MSHA leadership believes that the industry is well on its way to being accident- and fatality-free.
The report also showed that mining companies have some work to do on improving training programs and standards for workers. More than half of the miners who died in 2012 were rookies, with less than a year on the job or in that particular mine. With better training for each task in a mine, the risk of accidents will decline.
Source: TribLive.com, “U.S. mining fatalities in 2012 near all-time low; Pennsylvania ends year with none,” Chris Togneri, Feb. 1, 2013
Our firm helps people who have been injured on the job in workplaces like the mines referred to in this post. If you would like to learn more about our North Carolina practice, please visit our Workers’ Compensation: Injuries and Issues page.