Mining

No participating core and specialty programs

Industry, academia, other government agencies, and standard setting bodies adopt workplace solutions to reduce fatigue-associated events among mining workers.

  Health Outcome Issue Worker population Research needed
A Fatal and non-fatal injuries Fatigue from long shifts over consecutive days Underground mines Intervention
B Fatal and non-fatal injuries Task-oriented fatigue Surface mines (esp. metal/non-metal) Intervention
C Fatal and non-fatal injuries Unique challenges in managing workload (seasonal, day/night) Stone, sand and gravel Intervention
D Fatal and non-fatal injuries More systematic measurement and reporting of fatigue Underground; surface; and stone, sand, and gravel Surveillance research

Activity Goal 7.3.1 (Intervention Research): Conduct studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of interventions to reduce worker fatigue.

Activity Goal 7.3.2 (Surveillance Research): Conduct surveillance research to develop new methods to systematically measure and report fatigue issues among mining workers

Burden

Fatigue has been estimated to put roughly 130 million U.S. workers annually at risk for a fatigue-related occupational injury [Lombardi et al. 2010] and also is estimated to cost the U.S. economy upwards of $411 billion annually due to insufficient sleep [Hafner et al. 2016]. Although no explicit resources exist to evaluate the precise burden of fatigue in the mining industry, indirect indicators provide some evidence for potential burden. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [2017], the mining sector continues to lead in average weekly hours worked, specifically working an average of 45.8 hours per week in 2015 [BLS 2016]. This is at least 4-5 hours on average per week more than the construction, logging, and oil and gas industries. Workers in the mining sector also have, on average, the longest commutes of nearly any other industry [Kopf 2016; U.S. Census Bureau 2014]. According to 2016 Mine Safety and Health Administration data, for all active mines with >20 employees (n=1583), approximately 50.2% operations use shifts longer than 8 hours (81,534 employees), and 18.2% longer than 10 hours (47,580 employees). Working 12+ hours a day has been associated with a 37% increase in injury hazard rates, and a 23% increase when working 60+ hours a week [Dembe et al. 2005]. Compared to workers who sleep between 7 and 8 hours a night, workers who sleep less than 6 hours are between 1.79 and 2.65 times greater risk for occupational injuries [Lombardi et al. 2010]. Finally, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety [2012] explains how workplace fatigue is increased by dim lighting, limited visual acuity, high temperatures, high noise, and highly repetitive, sustained, and monotonous tasks: conditions which can frequently be met in surface as well as underground mining.

Need

Fatigue management remains a popular concern in industry circles. Many commercial suppliers and consultancy groups are moving into development of fatigue monitoring systems [McMillian 2013], which can monitor vehicle operators for indicators of ‘wakefulness’ such as eye movement and head orientation. While such systems could offer some utility in addressing fatigue, a more comprehensive systems-level approach is needed that investigates root causes and outcomes of workplace fatigue. Such work, however, is cost-prohibitive for the private sector as such solutions require a substantive degree of time and experience to develop in an empirically sound manner, especially because fatigue is perceptual (i.e. non-objective) and therefore its prevalence can be difficult to specifically quantify. As a respected neutral scientific authority with a wealth of interdisciplinary expertise, NIOSH could be poised to provide prevention information for the mining industry. However, some practical guidance is needed beyond case-study reports and worker education to improve health and safety regarding the specific risk in mining, such as using a robust data-driven approach to determine which interventions are best suited for specific causes of workplace fatigue. In addition, there is a need to develop and supply mines with the tools to assess, evaluate, and solve health and safety problems in mines caused by worker fatigue. Research is needed to describe the potential frameworks for filling these critical gaps for the mining sector as well as other industries that rely on shiftwork or long working hours to accomplish business missions and goals.

BLS [2016]. Average weekly hours of production and nonsupervisory employees, mining, except oil and gas. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CEU1021200007?data_tool=XGtableExternal

BLS [2017]. Average weekly hours and overtime of production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted (Economic News Release, Table B-7). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t23.htmExternal

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety [2012]. Fatigue fact sheet. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/fatigue.htmlExternal

Dembe AE, Erickson JB, Delbos RG, Banks SM [2005]. The impact of overtime and long work hours on occupational injuries and illnesses: new evidence from the United States. Occup Environ Med 62(9), 588-597.

Hafner M, Stepanek M, Taylor J, Troxel WM, van Stolk C [2016]. Why sleep matters–the economic costs of insufficient sleep. Santa Monica, CA and Cambridge, UK: RAND Corporation, https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1791.htmlExternal

Kopf D [2016]. Which professions have the longest commutes? Pricenomics, https://priceonomics.com/which-professions-have-the-longest-commutes/External

Lombardi DA, Folkard S, Willetts JL, Smith GS [2010]. Daily sleep, weekly working hours, and risk of work-related injury: US National Health Interview Survey (2004–2008). Chronobiol Int 27(5), 1013-1030.

McMillan, G. (2013). Fatigue monitoring system detects when workers are too sleepy to run heavy machines. Digital Trends, http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/fatigue-monitoring-system/External

U.S. Census Bureau [2014]. American Community Survey. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/External

Page last reviewed: April 24, 2018