Maryland residents who work in the mining industry may be familiar with the importance of on-the-job safety, but they may wonder how effective safety practices are. Since the Mining Safety and Health Administration was established in 1978, the number of deaths has consistently fallen. That year’s deaths totaled 242, and the number in 2015 totaled 28, a decrease of nearly 90 percent over the 37-year period.
Mining has taken a hit in recent years in terms of demand for coal, one of the primary mining products. Only 11 of the 28 deaths in 2015 occurred in coal mining settings, and this may be due in part to the closure of numerous mines and the loss of many jobs. The industry has been affected by economics as power plants are turning more to natural gas because of lower costs. However, officials with MSHA indicate that the primary reason for an improved fatality record is the fact that safety standards are continuing to be developed and enforced successfully.
A severe coal mining accident in West Virginia in 2010 caused the deaths of 29 miners, more than the total for all of 2015. This event triggered MSHA’s implementation of special impact inspections, which continue to be used today to address problem sites. Additionally, MSHA monitors sites with chronic violation problems to ensure that these areas receive special attention and training. Excellent oversight and enhanced training are crucial for continuing to maintain better safety records in the industry.
Dangerous professions present a serious risk of workplace injuries to employees, which makes careful training and oversight an important part of running a successful company. An employee dealing with a work-related injury or illness may face lost work time and medical needs as a result, which should be covered through workers’ compensation programs. Most employers are required to carry appropriate insurance for such situations to ensure that the needs of injured workers are addressed.