Mining Contract: Designing a Pilot Program for Strategic Mine Safety and Health Improvements through the Use of Surveillance Data to Guide Targeted Inspection Activities

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Contract # 200-2009-28820
Start Date 2/2/2009
End Date 2/1/2011
Research Concept

This project has two primary goals: (1) to estimate the potential improvement in mine safety that could be achieved by targeting MSHA inspection activity towards mines that pose the highest statistical risk of serious injuries and fatalities; and (2) to design a targeting protocol whose efficacy could be tested through subsequent implementation.

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is complete. To receive a copy of the final report, send a request to

Although the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) maintains detailed records on the compliance and safety of each mine, a formal statistical analysis of such data that could help MSHA target mines at higher risk has been limited. Moreover, in the past, MSHA’s data management system made it difficult to integrate mine-level data on compliance and injuries, and prior computer technology was poorly equipped to handle advanced statistical applications. However, the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act) of 2006 enhanced MSHA’s ability to collect real-time injury data, and the modern database upon which the agency relies allows for the possibility of examining the inspection and injury histories of each U.S. mine in an integrated manner.

In order to evaluate the prospects for this type of approach to strategic mine safety regulation, the research funded under this contract analyzed MSHA’s database and current regulatory practices, explored the potential scope for strategic enforcement by analysis of historical data, and developed a statistically based mine targeting protocol. The protocol relied on a methodology known as Bayesian time series, which is a dynamic approach that enables direct calculation of the probability of hypotheses whose empirical validity is uncertain and allows for prior knowledge and expertise to be built directly into the modeling framework. This approach was particularly well-suited to the type of forecasting that regulatory targeting would require.

This research concluded that using statistical targeting techniques to prioritize mines for inspection would likely help MSHA make better use of its enforcement resources, regardless of whether the agency chooses to target injury rates, injury counts, or some mixture of the two.

Page last reviewed: July 18, 2016
Page last updated: July 18, 2016