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Mining safety and health research at NIOSH: reviews of research programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Committee to Review the NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Research Program
Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2007 Aug; :1-264
The U.S. mining sector employs approximately 331,000 people but has one of the highest fatality rates of any U.S. industry. Fatalities, injuries, and disasters, although less frequent than in the past, continue to occur, and health concerns posed by gases, dusts, chemicals, noise, extreme temperatures, and other physical conditions continue to result in chronic and sometimes fatal illnesses. In the last three decades, improvements in mining technology, equipment, processes, procedures, and workforce education and training have resulted in greater safety and health. In conjunction with planned reviews of up to 15 of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research programs, the National Academies convened a committee of experts to review the NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Research Program (Mining Program) to evaluate the relevance of its work to improvements in occupational safety and health and the impact of NIOSH research in reducing workplace illnesses and injuries. Relevance was evaluated in terms of the priority of work carried out and its connection to improvements in workplace protection. Impact was evaluated in terms of its contributions to worker health and safety. The committee was also asked to assess the program's identification and targeting of new research areas, and to identify emerging research issues. Although responsibility for controlling workplace exposure to mining health and safety hazards lies with others, the Mining Program can be expected to contribute to reduction of these workplace hazards through its research and information dissemination. The committee concludes research of the Mining Program is in high-priority areas and adequately connected to improvements in the workplace. A rating of 4 on a five-point scale (where 5 is highest) is appropriate. Contributions of the program to improvements in workplace health and safety during the period evaluated (1997 to 2005) are considered major in some areas (respirable disease prevention, traumatic injury prevention), moderate in some areas (hearing loss prevention, ground failure prevention), and likely in a number of areas (disaster prevention, musculoskeletal injury prevention). Mining Program outputs are evaluated, accepted, and incorporated into stakeholder operations, and training outputs find wide use in the industry. The Mining Program is moderately engaged in technology transfer activities. A score of 4 for impact is appropriate. To increase its effectiveness, the program should more proactively identify workplace hazards and establish more challenging and innovative goals toward hazard reduction. Interaction with other NIOSH programs should be increased, as should interactions with extramural researchers, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) when research needs are closely aligned with MSHA's shorter-term and legislative requirements. Partnering with industry should be done more broadly such that research results can be more widely applied within the industry. The program should make better use of MSHA and other surveillance data, and work to make these surveillance programs more robust. A more strategic dissemination agenda is suggested that would incorporate training into the strategic goals of all research areas and explicit plans for transfer to small business worker populations. The committee concludes the NIOSH Mining Program makes essential contributions to the enhancement of health and safety in the mining industry. The ability of the program to expand its research and transfer activities in ways recommended in this report, however, is critically dependent on the availability of funding. It is predicted that the U.S. mining industry will be challenged to produce more than 1.8 billion tons of coal annually by the year 2030, compared to current production of 1.1 billion tons (Energy Information Administration, 2006). Aggregate (sand, gravel, and stone) industry production is likely to grow, and increasing metal prices and an increased demand for metals and nonmetallic minerals worldwide are also predicted. Increased demand and production will ultimately lead to new technologies - and new hazards - in the workplace. The continued occurrence of accidents, injuries, and illnesses in the mining industry requires continuous and vigorous research on the detection and elimination of hazards that threaten the health and safety of miners. Advances in mining practices and procedures have greatly enhanced mine worker health and safety. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Safety and Health Research Program (and the former U.S. Bureau of Mines) has played a large role in these improvements. Continued quality research by the NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Research Program (hereafter called the Mining Program) should take into account changing technologies, practices, and procedures in the mining workplace. In September 2004, NIOSH contracted with the National Academies to conduct a review of NIOSH research programs. The goal of this multiphase effort is to assist NIOSH in increasing the impact of its research in reducing workplace illness and injury and improving occupational safety and health. The National Academies agreed to conduct this review within the Division on Earth and Life Studies and the Institute of Medicine. A committee was appointed to develop a set of guidelines for use in the evaluation of NIOSH research programs. The evaluation criteria are presented in the so-called Framework Document (Appendix A). The Mining Program is the second program to be reviewed using the established guidelines. The National Academies organized an ad hoc committee to evaluate the Mining Program. The Committee to Review the NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Research Program reviewed the program to evaluate the relevance and impact of its research on workplace health and safety, as well as to identify significant emerging health and safety issues in the mining workplace. Specifically, the committee was asked (1) to assess the Mining Program's progress toward reducing workplace illness and injury, providing numerical scores, on a five-point scale for both relevance and impact of the research; (2) to consider how well the Mining Program targets new research to areas most relevant to future improvements in workplace protection; and (3) to identify significant emerging health and safety issues in the mining workplace. The committee used the Framework Document criteria for its evaluation. The evaluation was based largely on an evidence package presented to the committee by the Mining Program (NIOSH Mining Program Briefing Book, <a href=""target="_blank"></a>), on presentations made by program managers and researchers during committee meetings and site visits to multiple NIOSH facilities, and on oral and written communications from several stakeholder groups. The committee reviewed documents related to NIOSH and the former U.S. Bureau of Mines. As an aid to its evaluation, the committee theorized what an "ideal" mining research program would comprise and identified the major issues that such a program would address.
Mining-industry; Mine-disasters; Traumatic-injuries; Noise; Dusts; Heat; Hot-environments; Mining-equipment; Education; Training; Respiratory-system-disorders; Hearing-loss; Hearing-conservation; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Surveillance-programs; Small-businesses
Publication Date
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Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Contract-200-2000-00629; Contract-200-2005-10881
Source Name
Mining safety and health research at NIOSH: reviews of research programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
National Academy of Sciences
Page last reviewed: June 15, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division