The U.S. mining industry had its safest year in recorded history in 2012, according to final data released July 10, 2013, by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
The final figures for 2012 indicated the lowest fatality and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining, along with the lowest rate of contractor fatalities since the agency began calculating that statistic, in 1983.
Thirty-six miners and five contractors died in mining accidents last year. The reported injury rate was 2.56 per 200,000 hours worked, a record low.
Although the number of mines in the United States decreased slightly from 14,176 in 2011 to 14,093 in 2012, the number of miners increased from 381,209 to 387,878, according to the MSHA.
MSHA administrator Joe Main credited the improvements to tougher enforcement and industry response. “While more needs to be done to protect the nation’s miners, we are moving mine safety in the right direction,” Main said in a statement. “The actions undertaken by MSHA and the mining community were the key to the continuing improvements we saw in 2012.”
The agency said that compliance with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act continued to improve in 2012, with an 18 percent reduction in violations cited since 2010. As a result, penalties for violations dropped from $160.8 million in 2011 to $120.5 million in 2012.
“I do think there’s a cultural change in the industry that’s being driven by a lot of what we’re doing,” Main said.
Even though 100 fewer coal mines were in operation last year and the number of working miners fell from 143,437 in 2011 to 137,650, the MSHA pointed out that 2012 is still the second-highest year for mining employment since 1984.
Last year 20 workers died in accidents related to coal mining, the second-lowest number ever.
The rate of reported injuries at coal mines was 3.16 per 200,000 hours worked, a record low.
The number of citations and orders issued for safety violations in coal mines decreased from 93,330 in 2011 to 79,250 (a 15 percent drop).
While the number of metal and nonmetal mines remained steady in 2012 at 12,193, the number of working miners increased from nearly 238,000 to more than 250,228.
The record-low fatality rate for metal/nonmetal mining in 2012 was .0079 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. Sixteen miners died in on-the-job accidents in those operations, the same as in 2011. The reported injury rate of 2.19 per 200,000 hours worked was also a record low.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.
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