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Mining Research Program

Our portfolio of research projects and contracts is based on analysis of surveillance data, customer/stakeholder input, and risk analysis/loss control.

Surveillance data show how workers are being killed, injured, or impaired. Customers and stakeholders identify their needs and the value of our products and services. Risk analysis techniques are used to assess low probability, high impact events such as mine explosions. While our top-level goal is to improve mining safety and health, this will only be achieved by eliminating fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. Accordingly, our Strategic Goals, based on these inputs, are:

  1. Respiratory diseases: Reduce respiratory diseases in miners by reducing health hazards in the workplace associated with coal worker pneumoconiosis, silicosis, and diesel emissions.
  2. Hearing loss: Reduce noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in the mining industry.
  3. Cumulative injuries: Reduce repetitive/cumulative musculoskeletal injuries in mine workers.
  4. Traumatic injuries: Reduce traumatic injuries in the mining workplace.
  5. Mine disasters: Reduce the risk of mine disasters (fires, explosions, and inundations); and minimize the risk to, and enhance the effectiveness of, emergency responders.
  6. Ground control: Reduce ground failure fatalities and injuries in the mining industry.
  7. Surveillance and training: Determine the impact of changing mining conditions, new and emerging technologies, training, and the changing patterns of work on worker health and safety.

These same inputs also allow us to target research areas, set priorities, and assess impact. We then use an external peer-review process to evaluate our research proposals and ensure the scientific merit of our work.

Our goal is to ensure that our research portfolio responds to the greatest needs of our customers, that our work is of the highest quality, and that our limited resources will have the greatest impact. From mid-2005 until the end of 2008, the National Academies conducted an evaluation of NIOSH's research programs with respect to their impact, relevance, and future directions. The evidence package and final report for NIOSH's Mining Program can be found on that page.

Currently, our research projects cover the programmatic areas listed below. See NIOSH Mining Downloadable Publications for papers related to these programmatic areas.

Program Areas

  • Atmospheric Monitoring and Control

    Atmospheric Monitoring Systems (AMS) can provide real-time information on concentrations of methane and oxygen, air velocities, and CO or smoke levels at strategic locations within underground mines.

  • Breathing Air Supplies

    This program will develop the next generation of Breathing Air Supplies (BAS) for use in escape, rescue, and shelter during a mine emergency.

  • Communications and Tracking

    The MINER Act requires mines to have wireless communications and electronic tracking systems in underground coal mines.

  • Diesel Assessment and Control

    The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) Diesel group's strategic mission is to reduce respiratory diseases associated with diesel emissions by reducing mine workers' exposure to these emissions in underground mines.

  • Electrical Safety

    The Electrical Safety Program conducts laboratory and field research on mine power systems, electrical system maintenance, and alternative energy sources. Researchers also evaluate new electrical safety technologies in the field.

  • Emergency Response and Rescue

    This program area does research in emergency response and rescue from mine emergencies, including organizational and individual response, traumatic incident stress, worker expectations, and incident command center coordination.

  • Explosion Prevention

    The purpose of the Explosion Prevention Program is to eliminate coal dust explosions in underground coal mines through improved methodologies for identifying and mitigating explosible accumulations of coal dust.

  • Fire Prevention and Control

    The purpose of the Office of Mine Safety and Health Research's (OMSHR) Fire Prevention and Control Program is to reduce the risk of mine fires through the development of new or improved technologies for mine fire prevention, detection, and control.

  • Ground Control

    The Ground Control Program aims to improve the state-of-the-art in ground control practices in U.S. mines through research, dissemination, and training, and to advance the understanding of potential ground control hazards and improve worker safety.

  • Health and Safety Management Systems

    Organizations worldwide, including mining companies, are integrating occupational health and safety management systems into their broader systems of organizational management.

  • Hearing Loss Prevention and Noise Control

    The purpose of the hearing loss prevention and noise control program is to reduce mine workers’ risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

  • Illumination

    OMSHR is conducting mine illumination research to address the visual needs of the aging workforce and to enhance mineworker safety by improving their ability to see and identify hazards.

  • Machine Safety

    The machine safety program develops interventions to reduce injuries to personnel working near machinery and mobile equipment.

  • MSD Prevention

    The purpose of the musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) prevention program area is to reduce the incidence and severity of work-related MSDs in the mining population.

  • Refuge Alternatives

    The purpose of this program area is to improve mineworkers chances of surviving a disaster by providing effective refuge alternatives.

  • Respirable Dust Assessment and Control

    The ultimate goal of this research program is to eliminate coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and silicosis from the mining industry.

  • Safety Culture

    The purpose of this program area is to assess and better understand the safety cultures of the underground coal mining industry and to suggest methods to improve them.

  • Surveillance

    The mission of this program is to collect and analyze health and safety data related to mining occupations.

  • Training Research and Development

    This program area conducts research on the latest technologies and methods for mine worker training.

  • Ventilation

    This program area seeks to improve the performance of ventilation systems in all types of mining operations.


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