Safest Year
On Record

By: Bill Reid
Managing Editor


Dave D. Lauriski

    Fatal injuries in the nation’s coal mines in the United States declined to 

a historic new low, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration. The data indicate that 27 miners died in on the job accidents nationwide in 2002, the lowest figure on record, compared with 42 in 2001. The previous coal low fatality record was 29, set in 1998.
    “While the mining industry has made tremendous progress over the past two years we must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to reduce not only fatal incidents, but also accidents causing injury and illness,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, Dave D. Lauriski. “In pursuing the critical value of safety, our efforts will continue to emphasize a balanced approach of enforcement, education and training and technical support,” he added. 
    Fifteen of the fatalities occurred in underground mining. Traditionally falls of roof have accounted for the majority of fatalities and 2002 was no exception with five. The next category, electrical fatalities, accounted for four

Jack N. Gerard

with machinery following with three. There were two powered haulage fatalities and one due to a fall of rib. 

    Twelve of the fatalities occurred in surface mining with powered haulage being the leading category with five. Next was machinery with two fatalities. Five categories followed with one each and these were falls of rib/highwall; falling, rolling or sliding rock; exploding vessel; slip or fall and other.
    In 2002, the state with the greatest number of fatalities was Kentucky with nine. West Virginia had six followed by Virginia with four. Pennsylvania had three. The states of Alabama, Indiana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming each had one fatality.
    “The historic new low in fatal injuries at U.S. mines in 2002 continues the steady positive trend toward improving mine safety since the early 1990’s,” said National Mining Association President and CEO Jack N. Gerard. “It is a testimony to the continuous, diligent application of equipment and technology advances, improved engineering methods, advanced training and conscientious safety awareness by all involved. The Mine Safety and Health Administration also deserves credit for instituting some badly needed reforms and improvements that contributed to the attainment of this achievement.”
    Since 1990, coal fatalities have decreased 59% and in the same period coal mining has supplied record amounts of domestic coal for electricity production.
    “The reality of modern U.S. mining is that our workers today are safer than ever before and according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, have fewer injuries and illnesses than Americans working in many other sectors of the economy,” Gerard said. “Though the progress is gratifying, no one involved in this effort will be completely satisfied until we reach our goal of zero fatalities and injuries for a single calendar year. By continuing to build on each year’s success and by cooperation between operators, miners, and government officials, the mining industry will eventually achieve this important goal.” cl

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