Mining Publication: A Deeper Look at Contractor Injuries in Underground Coal Mines
Over the past decade, the number of contractors working in underground coal mines has nearly doubled; however, the effect this has had on the industry’s injury rates has been the subject of much speculation. The confusion exists because the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) database does not assign contractor hours to the individual mining operations where they worked. To better understand the safety record of the contractor segment of the industry, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) undertook a comprehensive analysis of the data contained in the MSHA database. The first part of the study compared overall contractor and operator trends from 1983 to 2009 related to employment, hours worked and injury rate. One unexpected finding was that the larger contractors tended to have higher injury rates than the smaller ones. The second part of the study directly addressed the role of contractors on the safety record of 10 large underground coal mines. A detailed analysis provided both injuries and estimated contractor hours worked at these mines for the period 1992-2007. Comparison between the estimated contractor injury rates and the reported operator injury rates at these mines indicated that the contractor injury rates were significantly higher at most of the operations studied. However, the industry-wide data indicates that contractor and operator injury rates have converged since 2005 and are now equivalent.