Mine Safety and Health

Recent Culture of Prevention in Mining was achieved by a combination of increased society awareness, tougher mining laws and enforcement, higher standards for practices and procedures, systematic management approach and focus on people management.


Figure 1: Negative pressure full face mask

In addition to any relevant state and local regulations, mines in the United States are also subject to federal regulation; the US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is the regulatory agency. A list of federal regulations pertaining to mine safety and health are contained in the Code of Regulations (CFR). The specific volume is referred to as Title 30, which is further subdivided based by Part and Sections for specific statues. MSHA uses four principal indices for measuring mine safety: (1) fatal incidence rate (fatal RI), (2) nonfatal incidence rate resulting in days los (NFDL IR), (3) injuries with no days lost incidence rate (NDL IR), and 4) severity measure (SM) (Adapted from Bise, 2003).


Figure 2: Alert about use of cell phones 

Typically, the development of safety system is based on the following key elements:

  • Safety data review;
  • Benchmarking (evaluate industry performance and compliance requirements);
  • Define goals and objectives;
  • Map current challenges and opportunities;
  • Selection of key performance indicators;
  • Risk Assessment;
  • Develop action plan and safety groups for improvement;
  • Audit/inspection checks;
  • Measure of effort and results;
  • Routine management / Review action plan and training requirements;

Additionally, the foundation of any effective safety system requires commitment, systematic approach, effective people Management (eliminate unsafe acts) and safety engineering (eliminate unsafe conditions).


Figure 3: Mine Rescue team in training

Serious hazards will always exist in mining…As mining professionals, we need to anticipate safety issues, plan to eliminate or reduce their impact, monitor them to ensure they do not adversely affect miners, and make mining system adjustments to address those that do appear – Mine Safety and Health begins with Good Planning and Well-designed Mines. Moreover, Risk Assessment is a crucial early phase in the risk management planning cycle and it is essential in determining what mitigation measures should be taken to reduce future losses (Adapted from Karmis and Grayson, 2001).

About 80 to 95% of accidents involve some type of unsafe behavior. However unsafe behavior may not be the employee’s fault. Some of the key elements for successfully managing people towards a safer environment includes: Selection & Hiring; Integration and training & re-training; Data-based interventions & performance evaluation; Communication & feedback; Professional development & Organizational behavior;

Five Principles of Safety according Boling (1995) are:

  • All accidents are preventable;
  • All levels of management are responsible for safety;
  • All employees have the responsibility to themselves, their coworkers, and their family to work safely;
  • Management must ensure that all employees are property trained on how to perform every task safely and efficiently;

“Mining Professionals should have as goal for the Industry: Make it a model of excellence in all respects – a shining image of accomplishment” (Adapted from Karmis, Grayson and Watzman, 2001).

Some examples of safe mining practices Includes:

  • Safe Blasting Design and Planning: It is paramount to establish blasting plans in accordance with sound engineering design aligned with the short term mine plan and production needs. The blasting specification and design must be tailored for each blast, in view of the conditions on the site, including experience gained from previous blasts at the quarry, any unusual circumstances which are present or likely to arise, desirable characteristics of the blasted rock, etc.


    Figure 4: Blasting with potential for flyrocks

  • Safe Mechanical Extraction & Loading Haulage and Dumping Planning: The whole process is associated to three subsystems: Environment, Equipment and People:
    • (1) The work environment includes mine site characteristics such as road design and maintenance, wheatear and climate, and time of day. Road widths, road alignments, lines of sight, intersections, grades, and curves must be designed and maintained with consideration to the largest equipment using the system;
    • (2) Keeping equipment in optimum operating conditions means that they will perform within expected ranges. Equipment systems and tires (rolling material) must be properly maintained;
    • (3) Operator is the vital component of mobile equipment safety. Operators and workers around mobile equipment must be given the tools and skills required to complete tasks safely and efficiently. This requires training focused on understanding the controls, gauges, and miscellaneous systems unique to the truck. It also requires operational and safety training on vehicle;
  • Safe Crushing Planning: The selection of an appropriate processing circuit for your specific material is one of the most important decisions in the design of a processing plant. The layout and design should:
    • Ensure that the risk of any accident or injury is as low as reasonably practicable, and should state any special precautions required to achieve this;
    • Minimize the risk of negative effects of these operations on working conditions and environment (e.g. dust, noise, pollution, etc.);
    • Enable efficient production practices;
    • Ensure that working conditions are safe and sound;

Figure 5: Dust sampling program

 Could you indicate other challenges and opportunities associated with the future of Mine Safety and Health?


  • Continuing problems in small mines and some contractors;
  • Aging workforce // Period of intense retirements (North America);
  • Rapid influx of new and inexperienced workers;


  • Developing deeper understanding of work situations;
  • Linking group and individual behaviors to these situations;
  • An enhanced capability to sift through more powerful databases that better frame and target using;
  • Virtual reality, new simulation and surveillance tools;
  • Involving mine operators, labor, government, and other parties in partnerships that focus on the most pressing needs;
  • Employing new mining methods and new technologies and ways of organizing work more effectively;

Kind regards,


Follow me on twitter @rcrdossantos


Bise, C. J., et al.” Mining Engineering Analysis”, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc, Second Edition, Denver, CO. (2001).

Lowrie, R. L., et al.,“ SME Mining Engineering Handbook”, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc, Second Edition, Denver, CO. (2002).

Hartman, H. L. and Mutmansky, J. M. “Introductory Mining Engineering”, Published by Wiley, Hoboken, NJ, USA, (August, 2002).

Barksdale, R. D., et al., “The Aggregate Handbook”, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, Arlington, VA. Fourth Edition (2001).

Karmis, M., et al., “Mine Health and Safety Management”, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc, First Edition, Denver, CO. (2001).

Photos Credit:

Feature: Chilean miners in 2007. Author: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Figure 1: Negative pressure full face masks, possible APF decreased from 100 to 10. Author: US Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Figure 2: Cell Phones and Mobile Equipment Don’t Mix. Author: MSHA Alliance Program

Figure 3: Mine Rescue Instruction Guides Author: MSHA

Figure 4: Flyrock Dangers: MSHA

Figure 5: Mining Engineer taking a reading of dust count in restorable dust sampling program. Author: United States. Bureau of Mines



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