Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other


National Miners Day: Reflecting on the Past, Appreciating the Present, and Embracing the Future

Original article published by NIOSH

Today is National Miners Day, giving us a chance to reflect on how this vital industry benefits our lives. More importantly, it is a day to think of those who work in this challenging profession and face its hazards, with some help from NIOSH.

Lawmakers established the first Miners Day on December 6, 2009. The date is an observance of the anniversary of the Monongah, West Virginia, mining disaster where 362 miners died from a catastrophic explosion. It remains the highest death toll of any U.S. mining disaster.

Mining remains one of the most hazardous industry sectors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, these hazards are often unseen because about half of the more than 12,000 mines spread across every state in the U.S. are in rural areas, and many are entirely underground.

The minerals, stones, metals, and other raw materials that come out of mines are usually transformed beyond recognition to make valuable goods. The cars we drive and roads we travel, the utensils and appliances we use to make our meals, and the mobile devices and computers we communicate with are all possible because mine workers delivered the raw materials needed to make these useful items.

The mine workers who deliver these resources face many potential hazards including noise, dust, shifting geology, poor illumination, repetitive motions in unusual positions, and working around enormous pieces of moving equipment. The training, technologies, and work practices to manage and eliminate these hazards play a critical role in their profession.

he NIOSH Mining Program’s rich history has roots in the former Bureau of Mines, and with its ongoing research, continues to contribute meaningful improvements to the way miners work and the methods by which mines can keep their workers healthy and safe. Since its inception in 1996, the NIOSH Mining Program has developed new technologies and made other contributions that include the following:

Advances in mining equipment:

  • Cap lamp designs and brighter area lights reduce glare and help miners to see potential hazards more clearly
  • Mobile dry scrubbers pull hazardous coal dust out of the air
  • Intelligent proximity detection systems keep miners safe around moving equipment
  • Continuous personal dust monitors empower coal miners with near real-time information about coal dust exposure

New apps and software:

  • ErgoMine mobile app helps audit mining workplaces for potential ergonomic improvements
  • EXAMiner hazard recognition software allows users to perform a virtual workplace examination to build confidence for real-life settings
  • FAST software program supports field-based silica monitoring for quicker results than sending samples to a lab
  • Ground Support Factor of Safety Calculator software aids in designing ground support in underground mining excavations
  • S-Pillar software helps design stable pillars in stone mines

Safety innovations and training:

  • Hearing loss simulator lets users experience what hearing loss sounds like and to avoid hazardous noise moving forward
  • Innovations in enclosed cab equipment design keep hazardous dust out and away from miners in the cab
  • Practical noise controls for several of the most hazardous noise sources in mining
  • Dozens of guidelines, best practices, and training guides on topics such as hearing protection, refuge chamber use, slip-trip-fall prevention, workstation design, and dust control

The mining industry has come a long way since the Monongah disaster, but modern-day miners still face many challenges and risks, including new ones that come with changing technology and industry practices. NIOSH researchers are committed to helping miners meet these challenges so that all miners can go home to their families uninjured and healthy every day.

See the Mining Program’s website to learn more about the latest mining innovations and other NIOSH mining-related research.

McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.