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Initiating an ergonomics process at a surface coal mine.

Unger RL; Turin FC; Wiehagen WJ; Steiner LJ; Cornelius KM; Torma-Krajewski J
Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Institute on Mining Health, Safety and Research, Roanoke, Virginia, August 27-30, 2002. Bockosh GR, Kohler JL, Langton JF, Novak T, McCarter MK, Biviano A,. eds., Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech, 2002 Aug; :39-47
Musculoskeletal injuries are a significant and costly problem for the mining industry. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted the National Occupational Health Survey of Mining (NOHSM) to characterize health-related agents found at U.S. mines. An important part of the survey was to identify potential exposures to musculoskeletal overload conditions. A total of 491 mines (60 coal mines and 431 metal/nonmetal mines) were surveyed. The percentage of miners potentially exposed to each of the 12 musculoskeletal overload conditions defined by NOHSM was calculated for coal mining and for metal and nonmetal mining. The average percentage, over all 12 conditions, for coal mining (26.2%) was significantly greater than that for metal and nonmetal mining (17.2%). The three most common musculoskeletal overload conditions were (1) bending forward, bending to the side, hyperextending, or twisting the neck or back; (2) unsupported, abducted elbows, forearms resting on sharp edges, tossing motions at extremes of range of motion, or working with hands above shoulders; and (3) lifting more than 50 lb, unaided. At least 35% of mine workers (over 40% of coal mine workers) were potentially exposed to each of these three conditions. An analysis of NOHSM results for 24 commodities associated with metal and nonmetal mining concluded that the potential exposure to ergonomic hazards for those miners was high compared to that for nonmining occupations. Exposure of mine workers to musculoskeletal overload conditions clearly plays an important role in the development of musculoskeletal injuries at coal, metal, and nonmetal mines. In 1998, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) submitted a formal request to develop a cooperative project with NIOSH to investigate musculoskeletal disorders in the mining industry. MSHA representatives believed that the available injury data did not accurately represent the extent of musculoskeletal disorders in the mining workforce. NIOSH researchers took this as an opportunity to consider a comprehensive systems approach for examining ergonomics issues in mining. A research plan with three main goals was developed: (1) assess musculoskeletal disorder risk factor exposures in mining environments; (2) identify means to reduce hazard exposures through engineering, administrative, and work practice controls; and (3) evaluate the effectiveness of ergonomics interventions. To accomplish the second and third goals, the NIOSH team decided that a formal ergonomics process needed to be installed at a cooperating mine site to identify and test the effectiveness of possible interventions. This paper discusses the steps taken to implement such a process at a surface coal mine in Wyoming.
Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Injuries; Mining-industry; Surface-mining; Coal-mining; Ergonomics
NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Bockosh GR; Kohler JL; Langton JF; Novak T; McCarter MK; Biviano A
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Source Name
Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Institute on Mining Health, Safety and Research, Roanoke, Virginia, August 27-30, 2002
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division