In an interview with The Associated Press, the head of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration noted a shift in the mining industry in improving worker safety. While mining is frequently cited as a dangerous industry, companies in the sector are working to guard against hazards that could put employee health and safety at risk.
The number of coal mining deaths has decreased in 2014 to its lowest point after 18 fatalities were recorded in 2009.
"I do think we're seeing a cultural change in the mining industry that's for the better," Assistant Labor Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main told the AP.
According to the preliminary accident and fatal investigation reports, MSHA said there have been 16 deaths in coal mines in 2014. Metal and nonmetal mines had a slightly higher fatality rate with 24 deaths in 2014, which is 8 more deaths compared to two years ago.
Overall, there has been a decline in deaths as MSHA uses team inspections and other safety procedures to cite violations and other issues that could lead to fatalities.
To further reduce the rate of fatalities and injuries in mining and other industrial sectors, employers could follow these tips before inspections:
Recognize the biggest causes of accidents
Depending on the industry, such as mining, there are certain hazards workers may be more at risk for, which could increase the chance of accidents. Since employers in the oil and gas, mining and other sectors that have a high injury and fatality rate aim to lower the number of incidents, they should choose to train workers on the most common workplace hazards. In industrial workplaces, these hazards are often associated with heavy machinery. In 2012, MSHA noted that metal and nonmetal accidents resulted in 13 fatalities involving mine employees and three contractor employees. The leading cause of MNM fatalities was the use of powered haulage accounting for 38 percent of cases and machinery was second with 19 percent. Also reaching 19 percent was workers falling.
Employ safety equipment and tools
In knowing these risks, employers can take the next step and implement the safety equipment necessary to prevent these accidents. Companies could provide workers with personal protective equipment and machine guards to control for hazardous energy, chemical exposure and other risks. For example, as falling was one of the largest causes of fatalities, employers could supply workers with PPE such as fall protection.
Train workers to guard against hazards
As regulators focus more on performing inspections to prevent accidents, injuries and deaths in the workplace, employers should consider whether they are educating their workers on the right industrial safety training and instruction.
A customized industrial training and safety plan could educate workers on which hazards to avoid, how to correctly put on or use PPE and machine guards and let them know the proper procedures during an emergency. Through preparing workers for workplace safety hazards and how to guard against these risks, employers can help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries in industrial worksites and increase employee productivity at the same time.