A new initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is aimed at addressing the causes and trends in recent coal fatalities. Of special interest: miners hired within the last year, or in their current job for less than a year.
A higher injury rate
The reason? Less experienced miners suffer injuries at a higher rate than more experience miners, according to data compiled recently by the MSHA – 903 injuries over one 18-month period compared with 418 injuries among those who’d been on the job longer.
“Of the eight coal mining fatalities so far in 2017, seven involved miners with one year or less experience at the mine, and six involved miners with one year or less experience on the job,” said Patricia W. Silvey, deputy assistant secretary of labor. “We at MSHA will be working closely with mine operators and miners to eliminate these fatalities.”
Specialists will visit mines
The Training Assistance Initiative will involve staff from the agency’s division of Coal Mine Safety and Health and training specialists from Educational Field and Small Mine Services conducting visits to coal mines. Among their objectives::
- Review the approved training plan posted at the mine to ensure that all information is up to date, and the most recently approved plan is posted.
- Talk to and observe work practices of miners with one year or less experience at the mine to evaluate the effectiveness of the mine operator’s new miner and experienced miner training program.
- Talk to and observe work practices of miners with one year or less experience performing their current job to evaluate the effectiveness of the mine operator’s task training program.
- Identify deficiencies and offer suggestions in training.
- Work with mine operators to improve their training programs.
The agency has asked mine operators to provide it with information about miners hired within the previous 12 months, and those in their current job for 12 months or less – data it says will allow it to better focus its resources on the greatest fatality and injury risks.
MSHA personnel may ask operators to allow miners with more experience at the mine to accompany agency personnel during interactions with miners who have less experience.
The initiative runs through Sept. 30, 2017.