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From the Assistant Secretary's Desk — Third Quarter Fatality Summary – November 7, 2013

Joseph A. Main - Assistant Secretary of Labor  for Mine Safety and Health From July 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013, nine miners died in accidents in the mining industry. Five died in coal mining accidents and four in metal and nonmetal mining accidents. The number of miners that died in mining accidents the third quarter of 2013 was two less than the third quarter in 2012 – one less in coal mining, and one less in metal and nonmetal mining. The number of miners killed this year through September 30, compared to the same time period last year was also less. Twenty-seven miners were killed in mining accidents through September 30 of this year, compared to 30 through September 30, 2012.

While actions undertaken by MSHA and the mining industry continue to move mine safety in the right direction, these deaths are a reminder that much more needs to be done to protect the nation’s miners. We continue to see fatalities occur that are preventable.

As noted in MSHA’s mid-year fatality summary, miners continue to die in accidents that can be prevented using proximity detection equipment. One coal miner was killed this quarter in an accident that could have been prevented through the use of proximity detection equipment. As of September 30, 2013, 372 proximity detection systems had been installed on mining machines in underground coal mines including continuous mining machines, coal hauling machines, and scoops. Of those 372 proximity detection systems, 275 are on continuous mining machines and 97 are on other mobile machines. There also are other best practices, as described in the fatality summary section on MSHA’s website, which should be applied to prevent crushing injuries and fatalities from occurring.

In metal/nonmetal, fatalities continue to occur that could be prevented using Lock Out Tag Out best practices. Two of the fatalities this quarter could have been prevented by disconnecting the power and assuring it is off, having each miner on the job lock the power source in the safe position, using his or her personal safety lock and tag to prevent the power from being reenergized.

Miners deserve a safe and healthful workplace, and assurances they can return home safe and healthy each day. No miner should have to die on the job just to earn a paycheck. We must all work together to ensure that does not happen.

An analysis of these mining fatalities is available at http://www.msha.gov/fatals/summaries/previoussummaries.asp along with best practices to help mining operations avoid fatalities like them, and for trainers to include in miner training.