In the US, the safety and health of miners is, by law, the responsibility of the mine operator with the assistance of miners. In addition, two US federal agencies, by statute, have complementary responsibilities for contributing to miner safety and health. These two government entities work in conjunction to facilitate a systems approach to safety and health through training and education, regulation and enforcement, development of engineering best practices and new technology, and research. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), located in the Department of Labor, has the statutory responsibility to develop and enforce the mining regulations, as well as the approval and certification of certain equipment used in mines. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is located in the Department of Health and Human Services, has statutory responsibility for research to determine the causes of safety and health problems, to develop training and engineering interventions or solutions, and to recommend criteria for new regulations. The efforts of these two government agencies, coupled with significant health and safety technological advancements in the mining industry, have helped to drive a decrease in injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Both MSHA and the NIOSH Office of Mine Safety and Health Research have identified areas within the mining industry in need of additional research. MSHA has identified several key areas in need of improved regulation and is pursuing the rulemaking process as defined by United State's law. The areas currently being pursued or recently concluded include: 1. Development of regulations mandating the use of proximity detection and collision avoidance systems for underground coal mining machinery such as the continuous miner and shuttle car; 2. Revision of current regulations pertaining to underground coal mineworkers' exposure to coal mine dust, the cause of coal worker's pneumoconiosis and emphysema; and, 3. Revision of current regulations pertaining to the use of rock dust in underground coal mines to reduce the explosiveness of coal dust. NIOSH has identified key areas in which the need for new engineering or training interventions is especially acute, and these include: 1. Improved practices for monitoring and managing methane gas on active longwall mines and in gobs of underground coal mines; 2. Improved practices for reducing the explosibility of coal dust through enhanced rock dusting practices and real-time measurement of mine dust explosibility; 3. New approaches to improve the effectiveness of mineworker training given the increasing complexity and inherent hazards of mining as well as practical limitations on the time available to train miners; 4. New technology to provide breathable air to miners in a post-accident environment, to overcome the limitations of current self-contained self-rescuers (SCSRs), which include: the inability to use voice communications while wearing the device; size, weight, and capacity issues; and reliability issues; 5. Improved design and monitoring practices for safer ground control designs, especially in deep mines; 6. An integrated approach to improving safety and health, by employing strategies found in occupational safety and health management systems. The United States has a continuing commitment to improve the health and safety of miners through adoption of new technologies, training, regulation and enforcement, and research. Further gains will continue to depend on the active collaboration of mine operators, mineworkers, and the government.
Mining-industry; Mine-workers; Miners; Occupational-safety-programs; Occupational-health-programs; Regulations; Work-operations; Worker-health; Coal-mining; Coal-miners; Mining-equipment; Training; Education; Safety-education; Safety-research; Environmental-engineering; Law-enforcement; Underground-miners; Underground-mining; Environmental-technology
Susan M. Moore, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Office of Mine Safety and Health Research, Pittsburgh, PA