Mining, Firefighter Deaths at High Levels
Total mining deaths through July 30 stood at 53, the highest number since 2007, and 48 U.S. firefighters had died in the line of duty as of July 31.
Skewed as it is by 29 deaths in the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion on April 5, the total number of U.S. mining fatalities for 2010 had reached 53 as of July 30, making it the worst year since 2007 for that benchmark, according to MSHA. There were 67 mining deaths in 2007, 53 in 2008, and 34 in 2009.
Two free safety workshops are being offered soon in West Virginia for miners and mine safety personnel. The first is an Aug. 24-25 MSHA workshop on surface haulage safety at the National Mine Safety and Health Academy in Beckley. The second takes place Sept. 15 in Charleston and is hosted by NIOSH's Office of Mine Safety and Health Research, with presentations from MSHA and the West Virginia Mine Safety Technology Task Force. This Sept. 15 workshop will discuss the latest technology for proximity warning and detection systems used on mining equipment. The systems are intended to prevent collisions between mining equipment and other vehicles and also to prevent operators of continuous miner machines from being pinned by machines they are operating. The MSHA upcoming events page includes links to brochures for these and other safety events.
Investigation of the Upper Big Branch explosion continues; Massey Energy and state and federal investigators announced Monday that an MSHA lab has confirmed two methane gas monitors attached to continuous mining machines inside the mine were operating at the time of the explosion, which proves tampering had not shut them down. Theories being explored are that a sudden surge of methane entered the mine through a floor crack and was ignited, and that methane slowly accumulated to dangerous levels, which should have triggered alarms and machinery shutdowns.
Through July 31, 2010, 48 firefighters had died in the line of duty, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, which reports 32 of those firefighters were volunteer and the other 16 career. The leading cause was heart attack, accounting for 26 deaths (54.1 percent), followed by trauma (13 deaths) and asphyxiation (3 deaths). March and July tied as the most deadly months so far in 2010 with 11 firefighter fatalities in each.
Ninety on-duty firefighter deaths were recorded in the United States during calendar 2009, including 46 volunteer, 36 career, 4 wildland contract, 3 wildland full time, and 1 part-time (paid) firefighter. Heart attack was the leading cause in 2009, as well, accounting for 43 deaths, followed by trauma (28 deaths). April was the most deadly 2009 month with 14, followed by 10 deaths each in February and August.