Mining Topic: Maintainability

What is the health and safety problem?

Although equipment manufacturers have made progress in enhancing maintainability, new advances of technology have made equipment more complex. These advances require more from the workers who maintain mining equipment, and additional training in maintaining complex systems is becoming more critical to workers performing their tasks safely.

What is the extent of the problem?

Maintenance activities on machinery account for about 30% of the injuries/fatalities in the underground coal mining industry. Stakeholders have recently voiced concerns over these types of accidents and expressed their desire to see investigations and efforts into reducing maintenance-related injuries.

How is the NIOSH Mining program addressing this problem?

View of complex machine controls

Complex machines can hinder maintainability.

 The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) has been addressing maintainability issues by conducting numerous studies over the years that focus on machine design for maintenance. These issues include development of maintainability checklists, efforts to stress training and work procedures, examinations of the work environment, equipment, tools, and personal protective equipment.

What are the significant findings?

Results to decrease the frequency and severity of injuries to mine workers while performing maintenance activities have stressed mine worker training and work procedures, improved work environments and safety and environmental control equipment, improved personal protective equipment, improved equipment control and display design, enhanced lighting and visibility-related research, and organizational issues.

What are the next steps?

Future maintenance safety research by OMSHR will not only address issues and hazards that have been linked to many past injuries associated with equipment maintenance but will also address potential hazards from new technology. Examples will include research into lock-out/tag-out procedures and new technology that will improve monitoring and procedure compliance, as well as improved maintenance procedures and equipment design recommendations.

Page last reviewed: April 27, 2015
Page last updated: September 22, 2015