Mining Project: Building an Evidence-Based Framework for Improving Miners' Health

Principal Investigator
Start Date 10/1/2018

To establish a program that assesses and tracks miner health and hazard exposures to: (a) determine needs for targeted intervention and research; (b) reduce occupational illnesses; and (c) improve miners’ health in the U.S., including vulnerable subpopulations.

Research Summary

While considerable progress has been made since the passage of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, miners’ hazard exposures are poorly described among mining sectors and continue to contribute to widely prevalent occupational illnesses such as pneumoconiosis and hearing loss. The known exposures include hazardous levels of noise, dusts, chemicals, metals, welding fumes, diesel particulate matter, hot environments, ionizing radiation, and other physical hazards. These exposures are the leading indicators for the work-related illnesses they cause, which have latency periods ranging from multiple years to decades. Increased measurement, reporting, and communication about the hazard exposures is necessary to foster a culture of proactive health and safety management in the mining industry. An evidence-based framework providing new knowledge of the patterns and trends of hazard exposures among current miners and the disease burden and health status of both current and retired miners is needed.

This project research focuses on improving the availability and use of illness and hazard exposure data to characterize the burden for workers in the mining industry. Previous NIOSH estimates of the burden of illness and hazard exposures in mining have largely relied upon Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) accident, illness, and injury data. As a result, the prevalence of chronic illnesses is underestimated. Further, scant information exists on the burden of unregulated or less-common hazard exposures. Better characterization of sector-specific differences in hazard exposures and health outcomes in mining is important to improving health and safety management practices.

To address these needs, this project includes four research aims:

  1. Use objective criteria to systematically review and assess the utility, quality, and feasibility for mining industry estimates of the primary data sources identified by the Mining Program pilot project, Clinical and Field Data Analysis of Miner Health. These complex data include population health survey, linked health survey, clinical, and exposure data sources.
  2. Improve tracking of the health of miners including vulnerable populations (i.e., women, older workers, minorities, and contractors) using existing data sources by selecting at least 1-2 priority hazard exposures or health conditions that the Mining Program will compare within mining (if possible) and to other industries.
  3. Characterize gaps in knowledge identified in Research Aims 1-2, including potential biases and limits to data interoperability, to inform needs for future research and health surveillance activities.
  4. Disseminate and communicate findings regarding miners’ health to stakeholders including industry, labor, government agencies, and the Mine Safety and Health Research Advisory Committee (MSHRAC).

Accomplishment of these research aims will ultimately build an evidence-based framework providing new knowledge of the patterns of hazard exposures among current miners and the burden of disease and adverse health conditions among both current and retired miners. These data will help to guide and measure the impact of NIOSH Mining Program research and will also benchmark the health of U.S. miners to workers in other industries. This framework will rely primarily on existing data sources, including population-based health survey data, health survey data linked to other data sources, clinical data, and available hazard exposure data including biological monitoring.

The potential impact of this project research will be:

  • an improved understanding of miner health and exposure status and more clearly identified knowledge gaps to focus research efforts and measure effectiveness;
  • development of methodologies to apply existing health data sources to the mining industry;
  • increased expertise in data management, epidemiology, and biostatistics; and
  • increased resources for surveillance of workers’ health and improved information on miners’ overall health.

Page last reviewed: May 8, 2023
Page last updated: March 6, 2019