Mining Contract: Development of a Severe Injury Surveillance System for Hazard Identification and Guiding Technological Interventions

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Contract # 200-2008-24858
Start Date 5/1/2008
End Date 12/31/2009
Research Concept

The focus of this project is to develop a Severe Injury Surveillance System using the Mine Safety and Health Administration's accident/injury/illness database in an effort to better identify the risk factors for severe injuries and fatalities in mining and the hazardous work processes that are amenable to technological interventions.

Contract Status & Impact

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

This contract evaluated the feasibility and usefulness of focusing surveillance efforts on the management of high degree (or severe) injuries as a proxy for fatal events. Injuries occurring at bituminous coal mines in the United States during the years 1996–2006 were classified by the degree of severity according to the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS). Using multivariate discrete and logistic models (via generalized estimating equations) and adjusting for the number of employees and underground v. surface status, high degree (AIS = 3) injuries in the prior year were associated with an increased risk (OR 2.02, 95% CI 1.17 to 3.46) of fatalities within the same mine. This finding supported the study hypothesis that mining conditions resulting in high degree injuries can also result in fatalities.

Mining operations and job titles corresponding to high degree injuries were evaluated to describe common hazards and risks and determine which were most amenable to technological intervention(s).

  • Underground operations accounted for 85.4% of these high degree injuries, where 80% of these involved active mines. Most of these injuries involved mechanical energy sources related to equipment use during activities associated with extraction, face haulage, or the installation of roof support. Approximately 87% of underground high degree injuries were the result of individuals having been "struck by/against" or "caught in, under, or between" objects. These injuries frequently involved pinching or crushing by a piece of equipment or roof/rib falls. The worker activities primarily involved in these events included roof bolting, continuous mining, shuttle car operations, materials handling, and maintenance.
  • Surface mines accounted for the remaining 14.6% of the high degree injuries identified in the study. A majority of these injuries were attributed to firefighting, highwall/slope failures, rigging, and powered haulage. Surprisingly, respiratory injuries caused by the inhalation of smoke and fumes accounted for nearly one-third of these high degree injuries. Accidents directly attributed to powered haulage comprised another 27%. These included injuries caused by mechanical equipment failure, collisions, and vehicle roll-overs. The failure of highwalls and slopes contributed to 14% of these injuries, most involving mobile equipment operators.

In both underground and surface mines, laborers, mechanics, and supervisors sustained a significant percentage of high degree injuries while operating equipment and performing tasks not indicative of their primary job title. Many of these injuries may be the consequence of deficiencies in training, experience, or familiarity with the current mining conditions. These results clearly indicate a need for better training and awareness of supervisors and mechanics when performing tasks outside their primary responsibilities.

Several areas for improvement were identified to enhance the collection of specific injury data using standardized methods and reporting schemes. It is recommended that the injury reports provide more complete details on the injury (or injuries) incurred, particularly for injuries involving more than one body part, currently coded as "multiple injuries." This research also highlighted focal areas to aid in the mitigation and prevention of high-degree injuries. Specifically, it is recommended that NIOSH extend efforts to design, improve, and implement technologies and strategies focused on:

  • roof and rib fall forecasting,
  • proximity warning and avoidance systems,
  • smart highwall and slope monitoring systems,
  • personal protective equipment,
  • improved perception and visual warning systems, and
  • education and training.

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