Mining Program Strategic Plan, 2019-2023 - Strategic Goal 2: Reduce mine workers' risk of traumatic injuries and fatalities

Mining Program Strategic Plan

Mining Program Strategic Goals Overview

Strategic Goal 2: Reduce mine workers' risk of traumatic injuries and fatalities

The mining sector utilizes a wide range of tools, stationary equipment, and mobile equipment to extract and process mined materials, many of which can pose immediate harm or death to miners. The mine itself can also pose significant hazards by way of roof and rib falls in underground mines and ground failures at surface mines. Surface and underground mines and the associated processing plants pose a variety of hazards, some of which change as mining progresses. Unintended interactions between miners and these hazards can result in outcomes ranging from acute traumatic injuries to life-threatening trauma and fatal injuries.

According to MSHA data, in 2018 there were 31,305 underground coal workers, 48,404 surface coal workers, 13,391 underground M/NM workers, and 207,778 surface M/NM workers exposed to the various hazards in the mining industry. These 300,878 workers worked approximately 516 million hours during 2018. Also in 2018, powered haulage and machinery were involved in 17 fatalities and 766 lost time injuries in underground and surface mines, while falls of ground were involved in 3 fatalities in underground and surface mines.

Slips, trips, and falls remain a significant factor in traumatic injuries, and fatigue and other fitness-for-duty issues play a significant role in increasing risk of injury. Although work-related deaths in the mining industry were at an historic low in 2016, the need for research devoted to preventing fatalities remains. Specifically, research to address fatalities caused by machinery and powered-haulage accidents—as well as fatalities caused by slip or fall of a person; falls of ground; and falling, rolling, or sliding rock—remains critical in reducing traumatic injuries in mining.

Below, in the boxes to support Strategic Goal 2, each intermediate goal is followed a series of activity goals—activities that move the research through the NIOSH research to practice (r2p) continuum—then a table, then an analysis of burden, need, and impact. The table lists the health and safety concerns; describes the research focus areas; identifies the mining sectors or worker populations affected; defines the research type used to address the concerns, and links to key Mining Program research projects that target solutions.

Click on a box representing the intermediate goal to expand or collapse it.

Activity Goal 2.1.1: (Intervention Research) Conduct studies to develop and assess effectiveness of interventions aimed to improve mine worker hazard recognition and risk assessment capabilities.

Activity Goal 2.1.2: (Intervention Research) Conduct studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of interventions to reduce machine-related injuries and fatalities in mining.

Activity Goal 2.1.3: (Translation Research) Conduct studies to determine barriers to manufacturers’ implementation of evidence-based design criteria for interventions to reduce machine-related injuries and fatalities in mining.

Activity Goal 2.1.4: (Intervention Research) Form partnerships and alliances to develop products to prevent machine entanglements during maintenance and repair activities.

Activity Goal 2.1.5: (Basic/Etiologic Research) Conduct basic/etiologic research to better understand the human-machine interface and injuries among mine workers.

Health and Safety Concern Research Focus Area Mining Sector/Worker Population Research Type Related Project Research
Traumatic Injuries Lighting technologies; hazard recognition; mobile equipment ingress/egress; human-centric lighting All Intervention

Situational awareness
(ended in 2019)

Slips, trips, and falls
(ended in 2019)

Hazard recognition
(ended in 2019)

Circadian disruption
(added in 2019)

Risk management Organizational and worker practices All Translation

Health and safety management
(ended in 2019)

Machinery entanglement Situational awareness; human-machine interaction Stone and gravel with application to all mining; underground coal Intervention

Conveyor system safety
(added in 2019)

Electromagnetic interference
(added in 2019)

Hazard recognition and risk assessment Leading health and safety indicators; risk management All Intervention

Health and safety indicators
(added in 2019)

Haul-truck-related traumatic injuries Haul trucks; situational awareness; emerging technologies All Basic/Etiologic Haul truck safety
(added in 2019)
Burden

According to MSHA data analyzed by NIOSH, from 2006 to 2015, a total of 465 fatalities occurred in mining. Metal/nonmetal mining operations (including stone, sand, and gravel) had 177 fatal accidents and coal operations had 188. Of this total (465), 49% (177) were related to machinery or powered haulage. Other causes of fatalities included entanglements with conveyor systems, especially for tasks associated with machine maintenance, repair, or cleanup. Maintenance accidents made up a large portion of machine-related incidents with about 37% (65) of total fatalities in mines, primarily due to entanglements and falls from height during maintenance. Maintenance activities also include building/property maintenance, underscoring the fact that maintenance and repair can include any tasks or activities required to repair equipment that stopped working or was not working properly, to replace or recondition components (scheduled maintenance), or to complete upkeep of facilities (e.g., cleaning up spillage). Circadian disruption and fatigue resulting from shiftwork, which is common in coal mines and metal mines, can also contribute to traumatic injuries. Recent data on risks associated with mining shiftwork are sparse; however, an analysis of various industry sectors, including mining, concluded that relative risk for accidents increases across three shifts, with the first shift being the lowest and the third shift being the highest.

Need

The NIOSH Mining Program is uniquely positioned to perform research on machinery, maintenance, and powered haulage safety, with significant experience in designing engineering controls to prevent pinning and striking accidents. NIOSH has completed extensive research in proximity detection systems technology to improve the performance of proximity systems being used in underground mines. The research findings have been incorporated in MSHA regulations and proximity detection systems for continuous mining machines (CMMs) in underground coal mines. This research is being extended to proximity detection systems for mobile equipment. For mobile equipment, the main categories of fatalities and injuries suggest that specific machine interventions such as stopping a vehicle before it strikes a pedestrian, detecting berms and edges, and detecting pedestrians around corners and through curtains, are necessary to preclude these types of accidents from occurring in the future. NIOSH also has the facilities to conduct full-scale testing on mining machines and equipment using specialized equipment such as different proximity detection technologies, spectrum analyzers, and magnetic field probes in a controlled environment. Human factors also play a critical role in investigating routine and non-routine maintenance activities, including risk perception and situational awareness considerations for the use of new technologies, and the acceptance and safe maintenance of these technologies. A strong need exists for improving performance- and system-based standards around workers, technologies, and the organization. Initial research sought to understand what specific leading indicators and respective practices operated under certain risk management elements and how they could best be measured. Additional work needs to consider how technology acceptance and integration impacts operationalized risk management practices. NIOSH’s industry partnerships allow for rapid development and implementation of technologies based on Mining Program research, with an understanding of the end user’s perspective on accepting these technologies. NIOSH lighting intervention research can also potentially reduce traumatic injuries. Researchers have extensive human subjects research and the needed equipment, lighting, and protocols.

Impact

MSHA references NIOSH findings in numerous regulations, giving evidence to the NIOSH Mining Program’s impact on machine safety research for both mobile and static equipment. Specifically, MSHA cited NIOSH research in promulgating the use of proximity detection systems on CMMs and in the final rule for the use of these systems on other mobile equipment. The industry has adopted emerging technologies and engineering controls based on NIOSH research, which has also guided manufacturers in the design of commercially available systems. As one example, the Hazardous Area Signaling and Ranging Device (HASARD), invented by NIOSH, has been adopted by manufacturers of all MSHA-approved systems installed on CMMs and other types of mobile equipment. MSHA predicts that as many as 70 injuries could be prevented and 15 lives could be saved over the next ten years by utilizing proximity detection systems on mobile haulage equipment in underground coal mines. Based on MSHA’s economic analyses on regulatory impacts, this equates to approximately $512,000 for each injury prevented and $9.2 million for each life saved, for a total of over $173 million. Broadly, this research can identify leading indicators that are more realistic in relation to technology development, measurement, and improvement, as well as show the safety advantage of having an operational risk management system through the application of human-technology organization-level interventions. The primary human-centric lighting intervention outcomes include a reduction in circadian disruption and new knowledge about human-centric lighting efficacy in mining applications. In summary, NIOSH research will help the mining industry reduce incidents of injuries and fatalities involving mobile and stationary mining equipment.

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Activity Goal 2.2.1: (Basic/Etiologic Research and Intervention Research) Conduct studies to recognize and determine characteristics associated with ground instability to reduce injuries and fatalities in mining.

Activity Goal 2.2.2: (Intervention Research) Conduct studies to develop and validate stress assessment models and mine design guidelines and software to reduce global ground control-related injuries among mine workers.

Activity Goal 2.2.3: (Intervention Research) Conduct studies to develop and assess global stability recommendations for mine development near gas well casings to reduce injuries and fatalities in mining.

Activity Goal 2.2.4: (Intervention Research) Develop guidelines and best practices and determine barriers to effective implementation of methods to reduce dynamic failures to reduce injuries and fatalities in mining.

Activity Goal 2.2.5: (Intervention Research) Develop mine design and ground control recommendations and determine barriers to effective implementation of methods for challenging underground mining conditions to reduce injuries and fatalities in mining.

Health and Safety Concern Research Focus Area Mining Sector/Worker Population Research Type Related Project Research
Fatal and nonfatal injuries from ground falls Quantifying support needs and designing appropriate supports for gateroad entries under variable loading conditions Underground coal (coal mine longwall gateroads) Basic/Etiologic
Intervention
Translation

Gateroad ground control
(ended in 2019)

Fatal and nonfatal injuries from ground falls Engineering solutions for ground control hazards Underground metal (deep and weak rock mass) Basic/Etiologic
Intervention
Roof support
Fatal and nonfatal injuries from ground instability Longwall-induced stresses and deformations Underground coal; gas Intervention Gas well stability in pillars
Fatal and nonfatal injuries from ground instability Monitoring and mitigating dynamic failure; remote ground stability monitoring Western underground coal; underground metal Intervention

Dynamic failure of ground

Ground stability informatics
(added in 2019)

Fatal and nonfatal injuries from ground instability Ground control hazard recognition Stone, sand, and gravel Intervention

Hazard recognition
(ended in 2019)

Fatal and nonfatal injuries from ground falls and bursts Ground control methodologies for new mining methods Underground metal (deep and weak rock mines) Intervention Alternative mining methods
Fatal and nonfatal injuries from pillar instability Loading of pillars in dipping and multiple-level mining; analysis of coal and entry-level stability Underground stone; underground coal Basic/Etiologic
Intervention

Stone pillar design

Coal pillar and entry stability
(added in 2019)

Burden

Although the total number of mines, miners, fatalities, and injuries has been on a downward trend in recent years, the near misses, injuries, and fatalities associated with and attributable to ground control failures are distributed among many failure types. These include rib falls, roof falls, massive collapses, bursts, bumps, back failures, dynamic failures, skin failures, highwall failures, slope failures, pillar failures, rock outbursts, insufficient barrier pillars, insufficient standing support, and intrinsic support. Injuries from ground falls are reported to MSHA, while reported ground fall incidents show the potential for exposure to ground falls that could result in injury or fatality. According to MSHA data, in relation to ground fall injuries, between 2009 and 2018, there were 48,108 surface injuries and 26,800 underground injuries among all sectors, with 46 surface and 3,593 underground injuries related to ground control failure. Of the 46 surface injuries, 45 were failures of highwall; 9 of the 45 were fatalities and 20 resulted in lost time. Of the 3,593 underground injuries, 42 were fatalities and 2,042 resulted in lost time. Of the total, 3,060 (85.2%) were in coal, 285 (7.9%) were in metal and nonmetal, and the remaining 248 (6.8%) were in other sectors. In relation to ground fall incidents, between 2009 and 2018, there were 50,107 surface incidents and 35,011 underground incidents among all sectors, with 87 surface and 9,572 underground incidents related to ground control failure. Of the 87 surface incidents, 86 were failures of highwalls; 9 of the 87 were fatalities and 20 resulted in lost time. Of the 9,572 underground incidents, 42 were fatalities and 2,004 resulted in lost time. Of the total, 8,851 (92.4%) were in coal, 428 (4.5%) were in metal and nonmetal, and the remaining 296 (3.1%) were in other sectors. This 10-year data provides insight into how ground control failures contribute to accidents and fatalities in mines. As near-surface mineral deposits are depleted, underground mining is occurring in more challenging conditions at depth. Conditions in deep mines stretch the limits of current mining practices, and geologic instabilities become a primary hazard for underground miners among the most difficult problems to mitigate. The depth of mining results in high stress from both in situ tectonic loads and overburden. The altered stress field can also cause rock mass movement, such as triggering slip along geologic faults.

Need

To address the global geological instabilities leading to ground-control related fatalities and injuries, a mix of basic, intervention, and translational research is needed. Although significant advancements in the understanding of global failure mechanisms that lead to large-scale instability and rock falls have been made, some underlying factors and triggers have yet to be discovered. Further, the physical properties of the strata surrounding the mined opening, which contribute significantly to the stability of the openings and the need for additional support, need to be better understood. Previous projects conducted by NIOSH have investigated these problems, and future projects will continue to improve miner safety through refined models, better risk assessments, and additional knowledge and understanding. The new information combined with the historical research conducted by NIOSH and the United States Bureau of Mines (USBM) provide the best opportunity to eliminate mining injuries and fatalities related to ground control failures. There is also a need to establish a new ground control safety standard for the deep underground metal mining sector. This would involve developing new technologies and methodologies to manage the highly stressed rock mass at depth. Data from seismic networks and geotechnical instrumentation need to be analyzed and interpreted in real time using advanced hazard analysis software to help alert miners to emerging hazards. Furthermore, advanced mechanical excavation and automation technologies need to be developed to reduce many of the current health and safety risks by ultimately removing the underground miner from hazardous working conditions. Several resources unique to NIOSH provide the Mining Program with the most comprehensive research abilities in the world, such as the mine roof simulator (MRS), the high-energy-high-displacement test apparatus, two research/experimental mines to test, calibrate, and experiment with instrumentation, and experts in the various facets of ground control. Currently, NIOSH research efforts have developed and continue to bolster cooperative relationships with numerous mining companies (in all commodities), all 13 universities with accredited mining engineering programs, several consulting groups, various support and equipment manufacturers, and industry stakeholders.

Impact

As evidenced by previous Mining Program ground control research, impact can range from dissemination of information to small groups of stakeholders to influencing policies and standards. The most immediate anticipated impact is dissemination of information for improved designs, understanding, or follow-on research. NIOSH-developed software programs—e.g., Analysis of Longwall Pillar Stability (ALPS), Analysis of Retreat Mining Pillar Stability (ARMPS), and Analysis of Multiple Seam Stability (AMSS)—are outputs of a well-developed research program that led to policy changes, ultimately resulting in a major reduction in injuries, fatalities, and difficult mining conditions. Similarly, numerous standing supports, roof bolts, shield designs, mine designs, shotcrete guidelines, and pillar designs developed through NIOSH research efforts have been adopted by the mining industry. Instructive material on roof bolting, screen installation, and best practices have been adopted by mining industry trainers, and most recently the software program S-Pillar has been applied to the underground stone sector. Current projects will continue to increase the awareness of issues with rear abutment, stone pillar design, full extraction load redistribution, and entry design through discussions with stakeholders, presentations, and other dissemination techniques. Research in the metal/nonmetal sector will improve the overall safety of deep metal mines by evaluating and developing alternative mining and backfilling methods. These methods will help mines to manage the high-stress fields created by excavating rock at depth and reduce ground falls resulting from both time-dependent deformation and sudden dynamic failures.

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Activity Goal 2.3.1: (Intervention Research) Conduct studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of ground control systems and rib support guidelines to prevent ground and rib failures.

Health and Safety Concern Research Focus Area Mining Sector/Worker Population Research Type Related Project Research
Fatal and nonfatal injuries from ground falls Effective ground and rib support and installation recommendations; remote ground support capacity monitoring Underground metal; western underground hardrock; coal Intervention

Roof support

Ground stability informatics
(added in 2019)

Burden

Ground falls remain a leading cause of fatalities in underground coal mines. According to MSHA data, from 2009 through 2018, a total of 31 ground fall fatalities and 2,205 nonfatal days lost (NFDL) injuries were reported by MSHA. Of these ground fall-related incidents, 18 fatalities and 534 NFDL injuries were caused by rib falls. The injuries and fatalities attributable to ground control failures are distributed among causes ranging from pillar failures to rock outbursts to insufficient standing support. Coal rib stability will continue to become a greater challenge as mining operations move into deeper reserves and encounter more adverse multiple seam stress conditions. Rib-related hazards are most likely to occur in the eastern coal basins of Appalachia and Illinois, which, according to a 2019 Annual Coal Report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, represent 84% of all underground coal mined in the United States. According to MSHA data, ground falls in underground metal, nonmetal, and stone mines resulted in 11 fatalities and 205 nonfatal days lost from 2009 through 2018. Falls of ground are caused by a breakdown in the ground control system, which is designed to stabilize the rock surrounding an underground opening. Causal factors are often related to seismicity, corrosion, support density or capacity, span opening, and rock mass structure. Several of the fatalities and many of the injuries were related to installing and/or rehabilitating support, especially where this work was accomplished with jackleg drills.

Need

To address fatalities and injuries resulting from ground falls due to the failure of support systems, a mix of basic, intervention, and translational research is needed. This research requires an improved understanding of the mechanisms and the root causes that lead to rock and rib falls; a practical protocol to quantify the structural integrity of coal ribs; an engineering-based coal rib design approach; and a definition of the minimum design requirements for rib control. Previous NIOSH Mining Program research has led to improved recommendations, best practices, and risk reduction methods. Nevertheless, lab testing, field instrumentations and observations, statistical analysis of empirical data, and numerical modeling are needed to expand knowledge and datasets beyond current experience. Several resources unique to NIOSH provide the Mining Program with the most comprehensive mining research abilities and facilities in the world, including a mine roof simulator; two research/experimental mines to test, calibrate, and experiment with instrumentation; and recognized experts in the various facets of ground control. In addition, strategies and tactics for identifying and managing geologic features that increase the risk of rock mass failures in underground bedded deposits are needed for both coal and nonmetal mine operators. By identifying the critical characteristics of near-seam features associated with dynamic failure events, operators would be able to target preventative support systems and mitigation procedures prior to worker exposure.

Impact

Recent NIOSH research provides a specialized model to simulate the stress-driven coal rib failure mechanisms observed in U.S. underground coal mines. NIOSH is currently using this model to identify critical parameters affecting coal rib stability and to develop an engineering-based design methodology. A design procedure will be provided that is similar to the NIOSH software products—e.g., the Coal Mine Roof Rating (CMRR), Analysis of Roof Bolt Systems (ARBS), and Support Technology Optimization Program (STOP)—which have led to improvements in the analyses of ground conditions and improved control techniques, ultimately resulting in a major reduction in injuries and fatalities and facilitating solutions to address difficult mining conditions. The developed rib design product will enable the mining industry and enforcement agencies, such as MSHA and state agencies, to assess rib integrity and to design appropriate rib controls. Other research projects are actively exploring the development of design criteria for durable support systems and detecting and managing dynamic failures resulting from anomalous geologic features near coal seams. Detailed geologic characterization of near-seam features will aid in the identification of specific mine locations at risk for dynamic failure phenomena. A full understanding of hazard location and ground support systems performance will provide a foundation for developing measures to control or remove ground control hazards. The impact of this research will be measured directly by the safety performance achieved, and the long-term impact will be measured by the surveillance of ground control injury data for the underground mining industry when the new technologies and best practices are generally adopted. A reduction in the number of injuries and fatalities due to ground falls in underground mines will be expected to result from this research. For the metal/nonmetal sector, impact will be assessed by working with several western underground mines to install new durable support systems at their mines and qualitatively monitoring their performance over time to determine if there is the predicted reduction in ground falls. Improvement is anticipated in the overall stability of the mine and of the individual stopes and drifts, as well as the long-term survivability of the support system elements.

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Activity Goal 2.4.1: (Basic/Etiologic Research) Conduct studies to determine environmental factors associated with slips, trips, and falls.

Activity Goal 2.4.2: (Intervention Research) Conduct studies to develop tools and interventions to allow mine workers to identify and remediate slip, trip, and fall hazards.

Health and Safety Concern Research Focus Area Mining Sector/Worker Population Research Type Related Project Research
Traumatic and cumulative injury from slips, trips, and falls Environmental slip, trip, and fall hazard identification and recognition Underground mining; surface stone, sand, and gravel; mineral processing plants; coal preparation plants Basic/Etiologic
Intervention

Slips, trips, and falls
(ended in 2019)

Situational awareness
(ended in 2019)


Hazard recognition
(ended in 2019)

Traumatic injury from slips, trips, and falls Tools to identify, recognize and remediate slip, trip, and fall hazards Surface stone, sand, and gravel; mineral processing plants; coal preparation plants Intervention

Slips, trips, and falls
(ended in 2019)

Hazard recognition
(ended in 2019)

Burden

Slips, trips, and falls (STFs) of a person are the second largest contributor to nonfatal injuries in the U.S. mining industry. Slips, trips, and falls accounted for 20.9% of nonfatal injuries and led to 644,308 days lost from work during the period from 2009 to 2018. According to MSHA data, slips, trips, and falls also led to fatalities, and accounted for the deaths of 24 miners at surface coal and surface metal/nonmetal facilities between 2009 and 2018. Publicly available MSHA reports describing fatalities at surface mining facilities reveal that mechanic/maintenance man, laborer/utility man, welder/blacksmith and sizing/washing/cleaning plant op/worker were the job categories associated with a large proportion of fatalities. Maintenance and repair, climbing scaffolds/ladders/platforms, getting on or off equipment/machines, and welding/cutting have been shown to be hazardous tasks, and were also found to result in STF fatalities. The most common contributing factor was the lack of adequate fall protection or inappropriate use of a personal fall arrest system. Inadequate barriers, equipment-related factors, and a lack of adequate operating procedure were also identified as contributing factors.

Need

Although well established as a major source of injury, STF hazards are still widespread in the mining industry. Several factors contribute to workplace STFs, including environmental factors such as inadequate lighting and poor housekeeping, personal factors such as not maintaining three points of contact when climbing ladders or wearing fall protection, and equipment-related factors such as limited equipment access and damaged or poorly designed ingress/egress systems. There are few mining-specific resources available that can be readily used to prevent STFs at mine sites. Hence, there is a need to investigate and provide recommendations and tools to identify and remediate the environmental, personal, and equipment-related factors that contribute to STF injuries and fatalities in mining. In its well-established Human Performance Laboratory, NIOSH is actively pursuing project research to develop recommendations for footwear based on empirical evidence from lab testing, and to identify features of mobile equipment ingress/egress systems that pose an STF risk.

Impact

Guidance is needed to inform mining companies about how to change the workplace or work practices to prevent STFs. Current Mining Program research will inform the development of a toolkit, with multiple tools, to identify, report, and remediate STF hazards in a timely manner. A study by NIOSH’s Human Performance Laboratory will identify if there are changes in gait, toe clearance, and heel clearance when wearing metatarsal boots as compared to regular safety toe shoes during ascent and descent from stairs and inclined walkways. Results from this study will inform mine policy and practices by providing miners and mine managers with the knowledge to determine when to replace footwear based on wear patterns and decreased tread depths. Reducing risk factors for STFs by modifying the environment, improving personnel practices through effective training and policies, and utilizing safer equipment will directly impact the mining industry. Providing mine sites with tools and recommendations that can be used to identify and remediate STF risk factors will have a significant impact on costs to the industry and improve the health and safety of miners.

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Activity Goal 2.5.1: (Basic/Etiologic Research and Intervention Research) Conduct studies to develop, assess the effectiveness of, and identify barriers to utilizing fatigue management systems to reduce the effects of fatigue on mine workers.

Activity Goal 2.5.2: (Basic/Etiologic Research and Intervention Research) Conduct studies to determine and reduce the occupational risk factors associated with inexperience in the mining industry.

Health and Safety Concern Research Focus Area Mining Sector/Worker Population Research Type Related Project Research
Fatigue Fatigue monitoring and management; lighting interventions All Intervention
Translation

Interventions for fatigue
(added in 2019)

Circadian disruption
(added in 2019)

Injuries and fatalities from miner inexperience Organizational and work practices All

Intervention
Basic/Etiologic

Inexperience and injury
(added in 2019)

Burden

Many work and non-work factors can contribute to an individual’s readiness for work on a daily level. Broadly speaking, these factors can include fatigue from shiftwork, long commutes, sleep disorders, physical fitness or limitations, experience in a job position or task, and stress, mental health, and cognitive impairments. As mining technologies have evolved toward a greater amount of automation, job tasks for individual miners have also evolved, and the spectrum of required work capacity has broadened. Several studies have described the increased workload capacities required during specific mining activities.  Mining is susceptible to worker fatigue due to a combination of environmental, organizational, and personal factors; however, the exact burden of fatigue in mining is largely unknown. Fatigue can be influenced by dim lighting, high temperatures, loud noise, highly repetitive and monotonous tasks, long work hours, sleep disorders, and circadian disruptions resulting from shiftwork, long work hours, and generally poor sleep habits. Similarly, physically demanding jobs require a certain level of physical fitness to maintain readiness and performance. As the physical and mental demands of mine work activities continue to be studied, the knowledge, skills, and abilities acquired through prior job and task experience have increasing importance in managing work safety. Inexperience is a known risk factor for workers in many industries, including mining. Experience levels for injured workers are tracked by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. In 2017, MSHA and other NIOSH stakeholders have expressed 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 injured workers in both coal and non-coal sectors. However, workplace promotion of fitness or readiness for work has recently expanded its context to include focal areas such as improved nutrition, eliminating drug or alcohol use, emphasizing the importance of rest and sleep to combat fatigue, and training. Nevertheless, the application of worker initiatives to monitor or improve miner readiness for work has not been widely institutionalized or promoted in the United States, nor has any strategic guidance been provided.

Need

Whether considering the contributing factors to worker fatigue or physical fitness levels, the current knowledge of mining workforce readiness is limited. Information is often (1) anecdotal and unsupported with reliable measures; (2) focused on a specific sub-population of the workforce (e.g., underground coal, haul truck operation, mine rescue); (3) based on cross-sectional data representing one point in time; or (4) limited with respect to shiftwork details. A multilevel approach based on research and implementation may help address mineworker readiness for work. Best practices, or solutions toward improving and maintaining a worker’s readiness, are needed in the mining industry. In order to provide informed guidance, components of readiness need to be characterized along with measuring any associations with injury, illness, or recovery, and return-to-work time. These efforts should evaluate for differences in job task demands and individual age, along with how these and other non-work factors change over time and over the course of one’s career. Then, appropriate resources and targeted workplace solutions can be designed and evaluated for effectiveness to help improve and maintain miner performance and quality of life. There is also a need to understand the relative effectiveness of specific interventions for managing mineworker fatigue depending on the type of fatigue, the type of mine, and the individual variation between workers. With respect to shiftwork, lighting interventions are effective for reducing circadian disruptions and fatigue because the day/night cycle of light impacts circadian rhythms. NIOSH also has distinct advantages and unique resources for conducting research involving the testing of human subjects; thus, researchers have extensive experience with mining equipment, mine environments, job demands, human subject protocols, and human factors applied research. NIOSH has a history of collaboration with industry and expertise in industrial hygiene and epidemiology, positioning the Mining Program to lead efforts to obtain and analyze data, consider privacy issues, and clearly communicate program objectives. The recent establishment of the NIOSH Miner Health Program will provide the mechanism for conducting this work.

Impact

Since 1957, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) has provided data that can be used to track health status, health care access, and progress toward achieving national health objectives in the United States. Numerous studies have demonstrated how a healthy workforce will improve production, job satisfaction, reduce the burden of injury and illness for both the employee and employer, and promote longevity and functionality of individuals into retirement. Health promotion programs can help prevent work-related illness or injury, and numerous workplaces have instituted policies, programs, and incentives to enable and promote a healthier workforce. Establishing systems to regularly assess the health and well-being of miners will enable individual companies to design and evaluate worker health programs that target inefficiencies in employee readiness for work, while reinforcing continued maintenance of healthy behaviors and components of well-being. Mining Program solutions and strategies that are proved to be effective and sustainable will be highlighted and disseminated across mining sectors and other appropriate industries. Given that inexperience is a known risk factor for injury, the impact of efforts to reduce the safety gap related to inexperience will be tangible both to the miner and the mine operators. Improved information and tested training products for operators, supervisors, and/or line workers, delivered to industry via the NIOSH website and conferences, will enable industry to address key areas identified through the research. Through systematically evaluating the effectiveness of multipronged mineworker fatigue initiatives, NIOSH and the mining industry could develop validated tools to attenuate fatigue health and safety issues through concrete translational solutions and scientific validation. If these tools are properly implemented and disseminated, NIOSH could have the opportunity to recommend evidence-based guidance for fatigue management systems in the mining industry. Together, these efforts should lead to a reduction in inexperience-related injury rates.

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Page last reviewed: 11/10/2019 Page last updated: 1/6/2020