mining in tunnel

Mining is a notoriously dangerous industry, and thankfully, many strides have been made in ensuring miner safety in the United States. With the help of modern day mining technology, such as bi-fold door systems, bulkhead systems, and extensive ventilation systems, the mining industry is safer today than ever before.

A recent report released by the U.S. Department of Labor highlights this rising trend of safer mining. According to the report, 26 miners died in work related incidents in 2016. While of course zero deaths is the only acceptable goal, it is important to note that this is the lowest number of annual deaths ever recorded. In 2015, that number was 29 per year. That makes 2016 only the second year ever during which less than 30 mining deaths were recorded.

Of the 26 deaths recorded in 2016, nine of them were in coal mines. Seventeen deaths, meanwhile, were in metal and nonmetal mines—none of which were in underground mining operations. The deaths were caused primarily by powered haulage and machinery.

Joseph A. Main, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, has this to say about the current state of mining safety: “While these deaths show that more needs to be done to protect our nation’s miners, we have reached a new era in mine safety in the past few years. Each year since 2009, injury rates have dropped, and the number of mining deaths and fatality rates were less than in all prior years in history except in 2010, when the Upper Big Branch mine disaster occurred.”

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is encouraging mine operators to take several key steps toward ensuring better workplace safety. Namely, mine operators should put effective safety and health programs in place to address specific conditions and hazards. In addition, they should conduct thorough examinations of the workplace to ensure that any conditions or hazards that could lead to deaths are identified and fixed ahead of time. And finally, mine operators are encouraged to properly train their miners on conditions and hazards that could lead to injury, illness, or death.

Currently, over 330,000 miners work in over 13,000 mines throughout the United States. Only time will, of course, whether the mining safety trend will continue to rise in 2017.