Miner Safety and Health Training Program – Western United States


Despite advances in technology and the work environment, mining remains one of the most challenging and dangerous occupations in the United States. The fatality rate in mining is five times higher than the national average for other industries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)external icon.

There were 331,610 workers in the Mining Sector in 2019, according to data collected by the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) from mine operators and independent contractors. In 2019, MSHA reported 12,968 mining operations in the United States. MSHA data for the same period shows 27 fatalities, with the industry average from 2009-2018 being 36 annual fatalities. The MSHA data shows that 3,926 nonfatal lost-time injuries occurred in 2019, an overall rate of 1.53 per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. According to data from the NIOSH Mining Program, BLSexternal icon, and MSHAexternal icon, the rate of nonfatal lost-time underground injuries in 2019 was greater than the rate for surface injuries (2.70 vs. 1.27 per 100 FTE workers).

Miners experience rates of respiratory illness and disease that are much higher than the general population, and mining has a higher occurrence of hearing loss than any other major industry. Of all nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses reported to MSHA between 2009 and 2013, nearly one-third (29%)external icon were musculoskeletal disorders. Because of the many challenges in the mining industry, the focus areas for mining training must encompass a wide range of hazards and risks.

In 1969, the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act provided funding for state health and safety training through grants by MSHA. The mining community in the Eastern United States is served by the MSHA Training Academy in Beckley, West Virginiaexternal icon. MSHA, under the Department of Labor, provides training to federal mine inspectors and mining professionals from other governmental agencies, the mining industries, and labor.

Since the authorities of the Bureau of Mines were transferred to NIOSH in 1999, NIOSH has supported the safety and health training of miners in the Western United States. NIOSH support for miner training has been provided through various projects, contracts, grants and cooperative agreements, including the Miner Safety and Health Training Program – Western United States. These training centers provide a joint approach to reducing injuries to miners and other workers in mining operations.


The Miner Safety and Health Training Program – Western United States enhances the quality and complements the availability of health and safety training for miners in the Western United States.

Several of the main objectives of the training program include:

  • Developing, delivering, and managing the training needs of miners through qualified instructors and faculty.
  • Implementing “train the trainer” courses.
  • Evaluating training effectiveness and impact on reducing injuries and illnesses to miners.
  • Coordinating with existing training programs, like those offered by MSHA and MSHA-funded state programs, and in partnerships with industry, miners, and other agencies.

The program aims to translate research into workplace practices that advance the safety and health of miners and other workers involved in mining operations and increase the quantity of qualified mine safety and health trainers in the Western United States.

Training Program Description

Colorado School of Mines

The Energy, Mining and Construction Industry Safety Program at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM)external icon is devoted to the development of effective training and education programs for workers engaged in mining operations throughout the Western United States. CSM has been active in efforts to reduce injuries and illnesses among workers in western mining operations.  This is accomplished through a focused, relevant, and comprehensive training program that educates mine workers on how to identify and protect themselves from risks and hazards in the mining environment.

CSM has continued to improve and expand upon the initial training program by focusing extensively on MSHA-required training; being responsive to industry needs for professional and specialized training; and by creating educational experiences for University students, faculty and staff.  Current efforts are focused on three specific aims:

  1. The implementation of a safety and health training program intended to satisfy MSHA requirements as specified under 30 CFR Part 48 for New Miner and Annual Refresher training in both surface and underground operations, MSHA instructor certification, and general mining related first aid training.
  2. The development of a broad-based Professional Training Curriculum that seeks to enhance and improve the technical abilities, working knowledge, and effectiveness of safety and health professionals/trainers in their capacity to effectively train workers at their individual operations.
  3. The development of innovative and interactive safety and health educational experiences for university students, faculty and staff that utilize effective pedagogies to ensure proficiency within mining engineering, economic geology, geological engineering and the extractive industries.
University of Arizona

Reducing fatalities, injuries, and occupational illnesses continues to be a significant challenge for the mining industry, despite on-going improvements. To address this challenge, companies are increasingly focused on defining competencies for task training to improve safety outcomes. Building on past NIOSH miner training grants, the Western Mining Safety and Health Training Resource Centerexternal icon at the University of Arizona uses a competency-based framework to integrate health and safety training for miners, trainers, and managers, with a focus on serving the needs of small and medium-sized mines. Specifically, the Center has three aims:

  1. Offer active learning-based safety and health training to mine workers. For mine workers, the Center accommodates low literacy and education disadvantaged learners. The Center uses a suite of serious games and active learning exercises to encourage critical thinking about safety, with emphasis on worker health, hazards recognition, and MSHA’s rules.
  2. Offer innovative train-the-trainer programs. For trainers, the Center developed and offers the Instructional Design for the Safety and Technical Trainer Certificate Program, using the competency model published through the Department of Labor. For managers and executives, the Center created a workshop to learn about critical controls and developed a networking mechanism through its website and social media that allows lessons learned to be shared across companies and industry sectors including contractors, vendors, manufacturers, and operating companies.
  3. Establish collaborative partnerships for critical control management. The Center partners with rock products associations in the key states of California, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and Colorado to offer training programs to their member companies. Trainings include the addition of health modules and inclusion of new topic areas in critical control management activities. By integrating our training under a single competency framework, the Center provides a coherent structure for evaluation and for assessing impact.

Fiscal Year (FY) Extramural Research Program Highlights

Program achievements featured in the Extramural Research and Training Program Annual Reports

Funding Opportunity Announcements

Please visit the website for current workforce development funding opportunities.

Additional Resources

Page last reviewed: September 29, 2020