The federal government today announced the third phase of a program designed to reduce the number of fatalities in the nation’s mines.
The first two phases of MSHA’s “Rules to Live By” focused on the most frequently cited violations that contributed to both individual deaths and major mining accidents.
In this third phase, the agency is pinpointing the most common accidents that caused mine fatalities over the last decade. Miners will receive extra training in those areas, and inspectors will be taught to better recognize those hazards.
2011 was the second least-deadly year for miners since 1910, when records were first kept. But MSHA chief Joe Main says the 37 deaths last year are still too many.
“The fatalities that we’re seeing are preventable,” he said. “And we need to do a better job to bring about even greater improvements.”
Accidents at surface mines also increased. Main says the agency is taking the trends seriously. The new phase of “Rules to Live By” includes several common surface mining accidents, and Main says additional efforts are underway.
“We have launched some new initiatives late fall and early into this year, separate from this program, to spend more time at surface mines, looking at highwall issues in particular, where we’ve had a rash of highwall related accidents late last year,” he said.
Two Kentucky miners were killed in October when they were buried under a collapsed highwall at an Ohio County surface mine.
Besides its three phases of “Rules to Live By,” MSHA has been conducting surprise impact inspections the past two years. Those inspections focus on mines with known safety problems.