No participating core and specialty programs

Industry, academia, and other government agencies adopt workplace solutions and recommended practices to reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among mining workers.

NOTE: Lines in bold in the table below are priorities for extramural research.

Health Outcome Research Focus Worker population Research Type
A Musculoskeletal disorders Improved identification and remediation of musculoskeletal disorder risk factors at mining facilities. Metal/non-metal; stone, sand and gravel Intervention
B Musculoskeletal disorders Develop and evaluate methods to monitor worker exposures to MSD risk factors. Metal/non-metal; coal; stone, sand and gravel Basic/etiologic
C Musculoskeletal disorders Conduct targeted research to ascertain biomechanical risks associated with high-risk mining tasks. Metal/non-metal; coal; stone, sand and gravel Basic/etiologic

Activity Goal 4.4.1 (Basic/Etiologic Research): Conduct basic/etiologic research to better understand the relationship between exposures and musculoskeletal disorders among mining workers.

Activity Goal 4.4.2 (Intervention Research): Conduct studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of interventions to reduce musculoskeletal disorders among mining workers.

Activity Goal 4.4.3 (Translation Research): Conduct translation research to understand barriers and aids to implementing effective interventions to reduce the musculoskeletal disorders risk factors associated with common mining activities.


Nearly a third (29%) of all nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses reported to the Mine Safety and Health Administration in a recent 5-year span were MSDs [Weston et al., 2016]. The median number of days lost (sum of days lost from work and number of days with restricted work activity) was 21 for all reported MSD cases. Older workers, and those with more mining experience, showed more days lost from work as compared to their younger, or less experienced, counterparts who showed a higher frequency of injury. Further, having a past MSD places a worker at a higher risk for developing a future injury, and re-injury rates can be especially high in some jobs, leading to the loss of a worker from his or her specific occupation. In an analysis of annual costs, musculoskeletal disorders had a direct cost (medical costs plus indemnity) of $1.5 billion. The indirect costs (lost wages, fringe benefit losses, home production losses, and training, hiring, and disruption costs) amounted to an additional $1.1 billion [Bhattacharya, 2014]. In addition to financial costs to employers, MSDs affect the quality of life of workers; limiting their physical capabilities, vitality, and even negatively impacting their mental health.


Intervention and Translational research is needed to ensure mine workers are equipped with the requisite knowledge to identify and appropriately remediate MSD risk factors. Although MSDs are one of the biggest contributors to incidents and lost days in mining, most mines do not have trained ergonomists or even safety professionals with ergonomics training. For this reason, it is important to develop tools and prevention approaches that can be used by persons with a range of backgrounds. Understanding the needs of the mining industry with respect to the types of tools or techniques that will be most effective for identifying and mitigating musculoskeletal disorder risk is critical to ensuring that research findings are appropriately transferred to practice. Basic/etiologic research is needed to develop and evaluate direct-reading equipment to provide detailed exposure information while workers perform their actual work tasks. Mining presents various challenges to direct measurement, including adverse environmental conditions, the need for rugged instrumentation, and permissibility limitations for underground use. Advancing our ability to directly measure exposure will provide a more accurate representation of mine worker exposures and provide mining companies with better metrics for injury risks. Basic/etiologic research is also needed to more quantitatively and comprehensively describe the biomechanics of high-risk mining tasks. Such studies will allow us to better understand the frequency, duration, and magnitude of these exposures. The exposure data can also be used to help identify jobs, tools, or tasks for intervention by focusing research on the specific issues posing highest risk.

Bhattacharya A [2014] Costs of occupational musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the United States. Int J Ind Ergon 44(3):448-454.

Weston E, Nasarwanji MF, Pollard JP [2016]. Identification of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in mining. J Saf Health Environ Res 12(1): 274-283.

Page last reviewed: April 24, 2018