Mining Publication: Ergonomics Considerations for Reducing Cumulative Trauma Exposure in Underground Mining
Underground mining in the USA has undergone significant change in the past 20 years. Two key elements have been increased mechanization and a more educated work force. In spite of these changes, many jobs continue to be labor-intensive and repetitive in nature. They entail tasks that, performed over time, can take a toll on the soft tissues and joints. The problem may be compounded by an aging mining workforce. In 1996 the mean age of coal mining work force was 45 years and the median total years of experience was 20 (NMA 1998). As a person ages, the body's resilience to chronic wear and tear is reduced, which may cause a worker to pay an increasingly higher health price for performing the same task. Mining companies, like many others, are becoming more aware of cumulative effects to the worker as reports of these types of injuries rise. Conducting a job analysis is an important step when considering a job redesign or modification to reduce worker cumulative trauma exposure. A basic approach to job analysis is to examine the types of aches and pains reported, the tasks performed, and work site conditions. The US Bureau of Mines (USBM) conducted an evaluation of roof-bolting tasks performed at an underground coal mine concerned about early warning signs of cumulative trauma. This evaluation will comprise the primary focus of this chapter. The approach used for the roof-bolting case study may be applicable to other work environments.