Last year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) focus was largely on responding strategically to spikes in particular causes of mining accidents.

That’s according to Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo, who reviews the agency’s 2019 activity in a post on the U.S. Department of Labor blog.

Zatezalo said the MSHA enhanced its compliance assistance efforts, such as launching a Fire Suppression System Initiative to inform operators and miners of potential hazards after three mobile equipment fires that resulted in one fatality and one serious injury.

“We examined all 4,288 pieces of mobile equipment currently in use with such systems for compliance but did not issue citations unless they remained unremedied at the next inspection,” wrote Zatezalo. “Compliance assistance specialists from the agency’s Educational Field and Small Mine Services emphasized the importance of fire suppression safety at 617 mines that collectively employ 32,000 miners.”

Preventing powered haulage accidents was also a priority, since about half of all U.S. mining fatalities in recent years – including 13 of the 27 fatalities in 2018 – were due to accidents involving powered haulage. That classification includes mobile equipment, conveyor systems, and anything else under power that hauls people or materials. The MSHA paid particular attention to mobile equipment at surface mines, seat belt usage and conveyor belt safety.

After a deadly six-week period spanning August and September that saw three miners die and two others sustain injuries in electrocution accidents, the MSHA launched a special campaign to educate miners on the types of procedures that could have prevented these accidents, such as locking and tagging out equipment and using appropriate personal protective equipment. “So far, we have taken this message to over 5,000 mines,” noted Zatezalo.

He said compliance assistance often took the form of inspectors’ visits to new mines, mines about to reopen and new facilities at an existing mine in order to take a proactive approach by identifying potential violations without proposed monetary penalties.

Additionally, the agency briefed around 300-400 stakeholders quarterly through online conferencing to highlight safety initiatives and discuss how the previous quarter’s fatalities could have been prevented through best practices and advanced technologies.

Click here to read Zatezalo’s complete blog post.