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MSHA issues preliminary mine safety data for calendar year 2013

Joseph A. Main - Assistant Secretary of Labor  for Mine Safety and Health

Today, MSHA is releasing preliminary data for calendar year 2013, updating the "Mine Safety and Health at a Glance" page, which is posted each year at this time. It includes information on inspections, violations, number of mines and miners, and fatality and injury rates for coal, metal and nonmetal, and all mining.

The data show that while the 2013 overall injury rate improved from the prior year to an historic low, the number of mining deaths and fatal rates increased, driven by a high number of mining deaths in the 4th quarter of 2013, when 15 deaths occurred. There were a total of 42 mining deaths in 2013. Of those, 20 were at coal mines and 22 were at metal/non-metal mines and facilities.

The number of coal mining deaths, at 20, was unchanged from the previous year.  However, in the metal/non-metal sector, there was an increase of 6 deaths from 16 a year earlier. Nine of those deaths occurred in the 4th quarter.

In general, mining fatal and injury rates have been on a downward trend. 2011 recorded historic low fatal and injury rates. 2012 fatal and injury rates fell even lower, followed by fiscal year 2013, with the lowest fatal and injury rates ever recorded in mining. That trend changed in the 4th quarter of 2013.

For all mining, the preliminary 2013 fatal injury rate was 0.132 per 200,000 hours worked, an increase from 2012.  The overall injury rate of 2.46 per 200,000 hours was a record low.

For coal mining the preliminary 2013 fatal injury rate was slightly higher than 2012, at .0176 fatal injuries per 200,000 hours worked. The overall injury rate of 3.08 per 200,000 hours was a record low.

For metal and non-metal mining, the fatal injury rate increased to .0108 per 200,000 hours worked. The overall injury rate of 2.11 per 200,000 hours worked was a record low.

The number of deaths of mine contractors dropped to a record low as well, with a total of 4 fatalities, compared to 5 the previous year. The fatal injury rate for contractors dropped to .0061.

Mining industry compliance continued to improve as the 118,759 citations and orders issued by MSHA in 2013 declined by 15 percent from the prior year. This was the third consecutive year with improved compliance. MSHA has implemented a number of actions to improve compliance. These include the special impact inspection initiative targeting troubled mines, the revised Pattern of Violations enforcement program to rein in chronic violators, the Rules to Live By initiative designed to prevent common types of mining deaths, and new examination rules requiring underground coal mines to find and fix hazards during mine examinations. A number of initiatives with stakeholders have also led to significant improvements, such as improved guidance on guarding of equipment and fall protection at metal/non-metal mines.

For more details on recent actions undertaken by MSHA to improve compliance, see my January 30, 2014 remarks at the West Virginia Coal Association's 41st Annual West Virginia Mining Symposium, and my March 5, 2014 remarks at the 2014 Annual Convention of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.

The number of mines in operation decreased slightly in 2013, from 14,093 to 13,708. The number of working miners also declined, from 387,878 to 374,069.

MSHA will release a final version of the calendar year data in July.