Mining Project: Inexperience as a Contributor to Workplace Injury

Principal Investigator
Start Date 10/1/2018

To characterize the effect that inexperience has on risk of injury and to reduce related risks for miners new to the industry, to specific worksites, or to their jobs or tasks.

Topic Area

Research Summary

In 2017, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and other NIOSH stakeholders issued a press release expressing concerns about the higher number of injuries and fatalities for miners with less experience. Preliminary analysis of incident data from 2006 to 2017 shows that miners with less experience make up a high number of the injured in both coal and non-coal sectors. Although inexperience is a known risk factor for workers in many industries, including mining, the relationship between inexperience and injury is not straightforward and cannot be adequately characterized without fine-grained analysis of relative risk. Moreover, NIOSH is not certain as to which mine practices may be reducing or exacerbating the challenges that less experienced miners face in working safely. Without an adequate characterization of the relationship, practices, and barriers, researchers cannot effectively advise mines on what actions to take to mitigate risks related to inexperience.

For the above reasons, a strong need exists to investigate the role that worker inexperience plays in injury. The NIOSH Mining Program has the pertinent data and statistical expertise required to calculate relative risk and to identify targets requiring intervention. Furthermore, a proper analysis of this problem requires operational data from not just a single mine or mine operator, but multiple operators and sectors, and the Mining Program has the relationships and resources to gather such data. NIOSH researchers have extensive experience in collaborating with industry and intra-NIOSH colleagues to translate scientific assets into informational and training resources that have been adopted throughout the industry.

To address the question of inexperience and associated risks, this project has three aims, which will be undertaken as described below. 

  1. Characterize the effect that miner inexperience has on the risk of injury. This research aim involves multivariate analyses of available quantitative data on miner injuries and fatalities from MSHA, using miner demographic estimates from NIOSH’s national survey to calculate relative risk rates for injury based on inexperience in mining, at a particular mine, and in a specific job.
  2. Investigate current practices for transitioning miners into new workplaces or tasks. This research aim takes an applied ethnographic approach—using qualitative analysis of key informant interviews and relevant onboarding, training, and safe performance support materials to determine current industry practices related to onboarding new employees and to assigning personnel to new tasks or work locations. Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval will be secured before undertaking this research aim.
  3. Provide industry with safety information and field-tested training products targeting less experienced miners, their co-workers, and their supervisors. To achieve this research aim, translational product designers will follow an “action mapping” model that helps learners take a visual approach to needs analysis and training design. With IRB approval, training developers will conduct formative evaluations with industry input.

Results of this work will be relevant to miners in all sectors. A description of the types of experience that affect risk of injury will help mine operators focus their attention on the most pressing areas. A description of strategies for transitioning miners into new workplaces or tasks—which may include hiring, annual and quarterly training, job assignment, new task training, ongoing performance evaluation, mentorship, and supervision—will help mine operators to evaluate their own practices and determine shortcomings, implementing ideas that have worked for others. Improved information and tested training products for operators, supervisors, and line-workers, delivered to industry via the NIOSH Mining website and conferences, will enable industry to address key areas identified through the research. Together, these efforts should lead to a reduction in inexperience-related injury rates in mining.

Page last reviewed: December 23, 2022
Page last updated: January 30, 2019