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National Miners Day

Photo of two coal miners covered in coal dust

“The first priority and concern of all in the mining industry must be the health and safety of our most precious resource, the miner.” ~ Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969.

National Miners Day is December 6, and was established to honor those miners who sacrificed their lives working in the mines and the hard work and commitment of today’s miners.

As a result of past mining tragedies, the U.S. Bureau of Mines was created to conduct research to enhance safety, health, and environmental impact of mining. This became the foundation of the present NIOSH Mining Program, tasked with eliminating mining fatalities, injuries and illnesses.

The Program includes research on:

  • Preventing explosions
  • Monitoring and controlling dust and toxic substances
  • Electrical safety
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Improving illumination
  • Ventilation strategies
  • Preventing musculoskeletal disorders in miners
  • Mining and processing machine safety

NIOSH’s research efforts incorporate all sectors of mining including coal, metal, industrial minerals, and stone, sand & gravel, and operations both above and below ground. While health and safety concerns vary from one mining area to another, an alarming trend of increased lung disease in coal miners has recently been identified in the coal mining sector.

Lung Disease in Coal Miners

Exposure to dust in coal mines can cause several lung diseases. These include black lung, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, and emphysema. Recent studies have shown an increase in black lung in the U.S., most notably in central Appalachia. Black lung can be prevented by measuring and controlling respirable coal mine dust exposures, and by early disease detection through lung screening and surveillance.

Miners in front of the NIOSH mobile screening clinic

Miners pose in front of the NIOSH mobile clinic after receiving free black lung screenings.

Health Screening and Surveillance for Coal Miners

Regular screening is critical to catch early stages of lung disease so that steps can be taken to prevent progression to severe disease. In the U.S., all coal miners are required to receive a free medical examination when they start working in the industry. The same free examination must continue to be offered every 5 years after initial screening for as long as they work in coal mining.

Through the NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, mine operators arrange for local NIOSH-approved healthcare facilities to provide medical examinations. These are provided at no cost to all coal miners. Additionally, NIOSH program technicians travel (in mobile clinics as shown below) throughout coal mining regions across the nation to provide the following services, also at no cost to miners:

Screening dates and locations for screenings offered by NIOSH mobile clinics are posted on the CWHSP web page each spring.

Contact Information

  • Page last reviewed: December 3, 2018
  • Page last updated: December 3, 2018
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