Mining safety is essential in order to prevent injury, illness and fatality in mines. During the first half of 2014, 22 miners have already died due to unsafe workplaces. Under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, “the first priority and concern of all in the coal or other mining industry must be the health and safety of its most precious resource–the miner.” Although the mining industry has long gone from its early years, there are still accidents, injuries and even worker deaths today.
Methane and Coal Dust
Amidst the coal layers lies methane, a highly explosive gas which can trigger explosions. Explosives used incorrectly, mechanical errors and faulty equipment may set off methane and cause coal dust explosions. The top three worst mining disasters in the history of the United States were caused by coal mine explosions. The worst was at Monongah, West Virginia where 362 miners died.
Blasting rocks with explosives and its improper use may lead to workers getting injured or worse, have fatal accidents. In a NIOSH study, Coal and nonmetal mining used about 4.3 billion pounds of explosives and blasting agents during 2001 in the United States.
The same report mentioned that Flyrock is caused by a mismatch of the distribution of the explosive energy, geomechanical strength of rock mass, and confinement. Flyrock usually originates from the vertical highwall face and bench top. It may hit workers and cause accidents and fatalities.
Miners may also encounter premature blasts due to carelessness or a defective explosive. Also due to explosives, it may cause earthquake-like events where miners may get trapped and stuck underground.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mine workers are at risk from air contaminants. “Because of their regular exposure to airborne dust, mine workers are at increased risk of developing lung diseases called pneumoconioses (dusty lung). The two main pneumoconioses that affect mine workers are coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP, commonly called black lung); and silicosis.”
Miners must have the proper MSHA certification classes, task and mine design, job hazard analysis and the necessary personal protective equipment in order to be prepared for their jobs and prevent any accidents or fatalities at the work site.