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Mining Publication: Surveillance of Disaster - A View From the Denominator

NOTE: This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated. Contact NIOSH Mining if you need an accessible version.

Original creation date: May 1998

Image of publication Surveillance of Disaster - A View From the Denominator

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is dedicated to achieving "safety and health at work for all people -- through research and prevention." An important procedure in pursuing this goal is the NIOSH surveillance studies where the number of injuries are monitored according to demographic, employment, and injury characteristics. These numeric data are then used to identify injury risk factors, develop safety programs, and monitor implemented remediation methods. In essence, ongoing surveillance data form the basis for directing the resources of NIOSH in setting research and prevention priorities, and in evaluating safety procedures. This surveillance technique, which is based on the Public Health Service approach to identification and control of disease, has been used quite successfully in dealing with relatively high-number injuries such as hearing loss, musculoskeletal disorder, respiratory disorder, falls, etc. However, a problem arises when extending this paradigm to lower-frequency traumatic events, particularly those often referred to as disasters (i.e., high-impact events like mine explosions or airplane crashes). One can ask the question: If there hasn't been a coal mine fire fatality in the U.S. for more than 10 years, to what extent should we be concerned with mine fire safety, resource-wise? The National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) system, which NIOSH uses to survey occupational fatalities annually, would suggest that underground mine fires would not be a high-priority item in occupational safety research. Yet miners (i.e., the exposed workers) consider mine fires and explosion to be major safety concerns.

Authors: RF Chaiken

Conference Paper - May 1998

NIOSHTIC2 Number: 20000132

Disaster and Emergency Management: International Challenges for the Next Decade, 1998 May; :37-45