MSHA: 2015 Mining Deaths Lowest Ever

"While record-low numbers have been achieved, we are mindful that things could change in a heartbeat if we let down our guard. There is still much more to be done to ensure that miners go home after every shift, safe and healthy," Assistant Secretary Joe Main said.

MSHA announced Jan. 5 that its preliminary data show 28 miners died on the job in 2015 -- too many, but a record low nevertheless. And this was a 37 percent improvement from the 45 miner fatalities during 2014 and made 2015 the first year in which mining deaths dropped below 30. Eleven of those 28 deaths occurred in coal mines — three in Pennsylvania; two each in Kentucky, Illinois, and West Virginia; and one each in Alabama and Virginia. The leading causes were powered haulage and machinery accidents, which accounted for six deaths, according to the agency's announcement.

There were 17 deaths in metal and nonmetal mining: four in Nevada, two in Missouri, and one each in California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. For these, the leading cause of death was machinery accidents.

"While coal mine closures had some effect on the historic low number of mining deaths, actions by MSHA and the mining industry to improve mine safety have been a major factor," said Assistant Secretary Joe Main. He credited the agency's use of strategic enforcement tools, including special impact inspections and the revised Pattern of Violations procedure, along with compliance assistance, training, and outreach efforts to the mining industry.

After three miners died at three separate operations in August 2015, MSHA worked with stakeholders to launch one of its most aggressive enforcement and outreach efforts across the country. And for the next 134 days, no metal and nonmetal mining deaths occurred in the nation's mines, passing the previous record in 2010 of 82 consecutive days.

"While record-low numbers have been achieved, we are mindful that things could change in a heartbeat if we let down our guard. There is still much more to be done to ensure that miners go home after every shift, safe and healthy," Main said.

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