ARLINGTON, Va. – There were 24 mining fatalities in the U.S. in 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reported. This is the fewest annual fatalities ever recorded, and only the fifth year in MSHA’s 43-year history that mining fatalities were below 30, officials said. MSHA officials are still reviewing two fatality cases which, if added would make the total in 2019 the second lowest number of fatalities ever recorded, according to a news release.
In 2019 there were four deaths each in Kentucky and West Virginia; two each in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas; and one each in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Vermont and Wyoming, according to MSHA.
“The low number of mining deaths last year demonstrates that mine operators have become more proactive in eliminating safety hazards, but I believe we can do even better,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo. “A disproportionate number of mining deaths involved contractors, and we saw an uptick in electrocution accidents, with three deaths and another two close calls. In response, the Mine Safety and Health Administration launched a targeted compliance assistance effort, visiting thousands of mines to educate miners, operators and contractors on procedures that could prevent accidents like these,” Zatezalo said.
After a two-year increase in 2017 and 2018, when about half of all deaths resulted from vehicle-on-vehicle collisions, failure to use a functioning seat belt and conveyor belt accidents, MSHA responded with an education campaign and new rules, officials said. In 2019, the percentage of deaths caused by those types of accidents dropped to approximately 25% of all mining deaths, according to a news release.
Approximately 83,000 people work in around 1,000 coal mines in the U.S., MSHA officials said. MSHA inspected all underground mines at least four times in 2019, and officials inspected surface mines and facilities at least twice, as required by law, the news release said.