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From the Assistant Secretary's Desk — Mine safety moving in the right direction: MSHA final 2012 data shows lowest injury, fatality rates in US history, and improved compliance - July 10. 2013

Joseph A. Main - Assistant Secretary of Labor  for Mine Safety and Health Today, MSHA is releasing the final data for calendar year 2012 on its “Mine Safety and Health at a Glance” webpage, which includes information on inspections, violations, number of mines and miners and fatality and injury rates for coal, metal and nonmetal, and all mining. The final numbers for 2012 show the lowest mining death and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining and find that actions undertaken by MSHA and the mining industry continue to move mine safety in the right direction, with improvements in both death and injury rates and compliance with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, as amended (Mine Act). The mining industry fatality rate in 2012 was .0110 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. The rate of reported injuries was 2.56 per 200,000 hours worked.

This year, for the first time, we are adding contractor fatality and injury data to our At a Glance Page. The year 2012 saw the lowest fatalities and injuries for contractors in both Coal and Metal and Nonmetal since MSHA began keeping separate contractor rates in 1983. Of the 36 mining deaths in 2012, five were contractors, nearly half the number of contractor deaths on record for any prior year.

These reductions improve upon last year’s record historical low rates and reflect a continuing downward trend in both fatal and nonfatal injuries achieved through effective implementation of the Mine Act. While one death is too many, and there are still improvements needed to reduce injuries, it is important to take a moment and acknowledge progress towards those goals. These improvements are the result of the work and dedication of all in the mining community, including MSHA, mine operators, miners and their representatives, and others. For more details on some of the actions that have been undertaken, see my March 7, 2013 remarks at the West Virginia Coal Association’s 40th Annual West Virginia Mining Symposium, and my March 19, 2013 remarks at the 2013 Annual Convention of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.

Although the number of mines in the U.S. decreased slightly in 2012, from 14,176 in 2011 to 14,093, the number of miners employed in the industry increased to 387,878 from 381,209 in 2011. Thirty-six miners died on the job in 2012, one fewer than in 2011. This is one death more than reported in our preliminary 2012 data published in April, as the death of a miner in Alabama in December 2012 was recently determined to be chargeable as a mining-related accident.

Compliance with the Mine Act and regulations continued to improve in 2012. The number of citations and orders MSHA issued fell from 156,802 in 2011 to 139,770 in 2012, an 11 percent decrease. This continues the overall trend, with an 18 percent reduction in violations cited by MSHA since 2010. As a result, penalties for violations dropped. Penalty assessments dropped from $160.8 million in 2011 to $120.5 million in 2012.

In coal mining, 20 miners died in on-the-job accidents, one less than 2011. The fatality rate was .0159 deaths per 200,000 hours worked, also the second lowest ever recorded. The rate of reported injuries was 3.16 per 200,000 hours worked, the lowest injury rate ever recorded in coal mining. The number of citations and orders issued to coal mine operators declined, from 93,330 in 2011 to 79,250 in 2012, a 15% reduction. The coal mining industry saw some decrease in the number of mines (from 1,973 to 1,871) and in coal production (from 1,095 to 1,018 million tons) between 2011 and 2012. While the number of coal miners also decreased, from 143,437 in 2011 to 137,650 in 2012, the number of coal miners was still the second highest for any year since 1994.

In the metal and nonmetal mining industries there was a record low fatality rate of .0079 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. Sixteen miners died in on-the-job accidents, equaling the record low set in 2011. The reported injury rate of 2.19 per 200,000 hours worked was also a record low. Metal and nonmetal also experienced a continued reduction in citations and orders, dropping from 63,472 in 2011 to 60,520 in 2012, a 5% reduction. The number of metal and nonmetal mines, as well as the miners working in those mines, increased in 2012. In 2012, there were 12,222 mines up from 12,203 in 2011; miners increased from 237,772 in 2011 to 250, 228 in 2012.

These figures represent the final year-end data for 2012. While there will always be variations in some data depending on the date we compile it as figures are corrected or updated, this information gives MSHA’s stakeholders and the public reliable information on mine safety and health in a timely manner.

We owe it to our nation’s miners to continue to work for their safety and health so they can go home to their families free of injury or illness at the end of every shift.

- See Press Release

- See MSHA at a Glance