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U.S. mining industry sees safest year on record, but success is limited

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is celebrating a year of improved safety- but the celebrations should be limited.

MSHA Chief Joseph Main last week at a West Virginia Mining Symposium- sponsored by the West Virginia Coal Association- indicated that the industry’s fatality and injury rates have fallen drastically since the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act was enacted in 1977.

In fact, Main said that 2012 could be the safest year ever for U.S. mining, according to preliminary data.  

Unfortunately, 2013 seems to fly in the face of these improvements. In a span of 25 days at the beginning of the year, six miners were killed on the job- four of which worked in West Virginia. At the same time, the state is sitting on proposed rules to improve mining safety– and workers are paying the price.

At the West Virginia event, Main said that MSHA has a rulemaking in progress to require proximity detection systems on mining machines in underground coal mines, among other reforms.

National COSH urges the agency to promulgate the rule quickly in order to stop this year’s recent spate of miners’ deaths.