Outreach Helps Smaller Mines Improve in Safety: MSHA

Smaller mines in the United States that have worked with MSHA's Small Mines Office reduced their fatality incidence rate (the number of fatalities per 200,000 hours worked) by 66 percent between 2003 and 2007, the agency said yesterday. Before 2003, smaller mines (those employing five or fewer miners) "tended to experience a higher rate of fatal accidents than their larger counterparts," according to MSHA.

"MSHA's Small Mines Office has clearly played a major role in assisting small mine operators in reducing the workplace hazards that can cause deadly mining accidents," said Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "These efforts have demonstrated that good health and safety practices need not be expensive, time consuming, or complicated." The office has worked with operators of more than 6,500 U.S. mines, helping them create written safety and health programs. In the five years period since SMO's creation, these operations cut their fatal incidence rate from .053 (2000-2002) to .018 per 200,000 work hours (2003-2007). Small mines that did not request direct assistance from the office saw a smaller reduction in their fatality rate during the same period, from .053 to .045, while larger mines reduced their fatality rate from .021 to .017.

Kevin Burns, manager of the office, credited "robust enforcement efforts" combined with the assistance. About half of the nation's mining operations are in the small category, MSHA said.

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