Safety and Health Initiatives
The top priority at MSHA is keeping miners safe. This year we have seen an increase in fatalities and injuries, many of which could have been prevented with proper training and attention to tasks. It is up to mine operators to ensure that miners are fully trained and able to take time to follow best safety practices that can prevent deadly accidents.
MSHA is implementing a Silica Enforcement Initiative to protect Coal and Metal and Nonmetal (MNM) miners’ health by limiting their exposures to respirable crystalline silica. This initiative has four components: inspections, sampling, compliance assistance, and miners’ rights.
At MSHA, we're committed to conducting inspections, investigating complaints, providing education and training, and collaborating with labor and mine operators to prevent accidents. While accidents are visible and draw attention to safety, identifying and addressing health hazards that cause illness can be more challenging. Some of the most severe occupational illnesses, like black lung disease, silicosis, and cancer, develop over time due to exposure levels and environmental factors.
Since October 2020, four massive pillar collapses have occurred in limestone mines. Each was accompanied by a powerful air blast and the formation of a large surface sinkhole. Fortunately they did not result in any injuries. Another massive pillar collapse occurred in 2015, and in that instance three miners were seriously injured by the air blast. All of these collapses occurred where floor mining, or benching, had substantially increased the height of the pillars. Three of them occurred in “legacy” areas where mining was completed many years ago.
So far this year, nine miners have been killed and 185 have been injured in accidents involving powered haulage equipment such as shuttle cars, scoops, locomotives, front end loaders and more. Year to date, this is the highest number of powered haulage fatalities since 2006. The safety of mining's most precious resource – the miner – is a critical mission at the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
In September 2018, three mobile equipment fires were reported in which fire suppression systems failed. One miner died from severe burns; another was injured.