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Mining deaths and injuries

Mining deaths and injuries

Jan 25th, 2017

A few years ago Riskope developed machinery-specific risk assessments. They were geared towards mitigating Health and Safety issues, covering Mining deaths and injuries generating high risks, in particular around underground coal extraction machines.

Mining deaths and injuries

We were recently delighted to read that All Mining Fatalities in the US fell to an all-time low (25 casualties) for 2016 (source Labor Department). The value is 86% from the previous low set of 29 (2015) and sharply down from 46 casualties 2014.
Conclusions are different if one focuses on Metal Mining Fatalities (source), but remarkably similar for Coal Mining deaths are (source).

Mining deaths and injuries

Entrance to a W. Va. coal mine: a “drift” mine. The live-wire was only shoulder -high in places inside, and unprotected. Location: West Virginia. September 1908, Author Hine, Lewis Wickes. Source PD-USGov

Nine out of 24 casualties (37.5%) in 2016 were in coal-mining, the other 15 fatalities occurred in metal and non-metal mining.

In the meantime injuries have been reduced to an all-time low too. There were 6,500 injuries in mining last year, down by about half from a decade ago and significantly from 25 years ago (29,000 injuries).

There are about 182,700 workers in coal, metal and non-metal mining today. (Table B-1. ). They work an average of 44 weekly hours. Metal mining employment hasn’t changed much in recent years, whereas the number of coal miners has declined from 90,000 in 2011 to 53,800 today.
We can express (2005-2014) the rate of Occupational mining fatalities year per worker as 15.1 for 100 000 full time equivalent employee =1.51*10-4. (source)

Let’s consider a constant workforce. This leads to an over-estimation of the rate, as the workforce has constantly reduced. As a result, one would get an estimated 1.59*10-4 casualties/year worker in 2015, respectively 1.37*10-4 casualties/year worker in 2016.

If one isolates coal casualties, then 9/53,800= 1.67*10-4 casualties/yr coal worker today.

Is it enough mitigation?

From the elements above, considering annual variations, measuring uncertainties and the constant workforce assumption it seems that 1.3*10-4 to 1.9*10-4 could be a valid range for mining deaths. To put this in perspective (we will discuss this in detail in a coming blogpost) the rate of centenarians is approximately 1.7-3.4*10-4 depending on the country of birth. The occurrence of Class 5 or higher nuclear accidents is in the order of 1*10-4 (source).

In the US Mining deaths and injuries have lowered considerably and are well below Whitman’s tolerance threshold but above the ANCOLD’s one (source). These two accepted tolerance thresholds define for 1 death respectively:

  • Whitman’s lower bound: 2*10-2,
  • ANCOLD lower bound: 1*10-5 and
  • ANCOLD higher bound: 8*10-5 (i.e. almost 1*10-4).

If one enjoys comparisons “Chart 4. Number and rate of fatal work injuries by industry sector, 2015” (source) shows that the mining industry is just above Construction, below Transportation & warehousing and well below Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. It is possible that two aspects explain the higher level of mitigation attained in mining. Indeed the level of mitigation is closer to ANCOLD higher bound than to the other tolerance thresholds above.

Here they are:

  • the motivation deriving from atavistic fears of live-burial as well as entrapment underground, and
  • the collective unconscious knowledge that mining accident often occur with more than one casualty per event.

In any case we see that reporting a single value (of casualty) adjusted to full time equivalent employees does neither help understanding nor reflects reality. Ranges and clear statement of assumptions are the only reasonable approach even when seemingly “good” statistical data are available.

Injuries vs. casualties

Injures amount to 1.8 for 100 full time equivalent employees. We have to compare this to 15.1 for 100 000 full time equivalent employee. The ratio between injuries and casualties amounts to ~120 times. This is likely demonstrating the tremendous efforts spent toward casualties in this industry. (source)

Was it just because there are less workers?

There is no doubt that:

  • better, clearer Standard Operating Procedures (SoP),
  • more efficient safety equipment, and finally
  • stricter enforcement of regulations and improvements in planning practices

have led to the decline in casualties. Those reasons reportedly overshadow the decline in mining workers as root causes for the beneficial effects.

Where do we go from here?

Reducing casualties certainly brings enormous social and corporate benefits. Day to day occurrences are the obvious next target. Automation will certainly play a big role in this, but it will also generate new problems.

At Riskope we believe that rigorous risk based decision making, using traditional and IoT/big data is the key to foster sustainability. Additionally rigorous risk based decision making provides the most significant socially and corporately benefits.
A manager should be able to collect and compare all the different type of past and potential accident (Business interruption, Health and safety, Environmental damages, and reputational damages) history in one single query of the corporate risk register.
That query should allow a search through a single site or multiple sites, or the entire corporate entity (ERM), multiple causes (earthquake, flooding, fire etc), include interdependent failures.

ORE provides the necessary platform.
Contact us to learn more.

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Category: Consequences, Mitigations, Optimum Risk Estimates, Risk analysis, Risk management

One response to “Mining deaths and injuries”

  1. Roy Wares says:

    The statistics are interesting. But what is the role of better corporate governance and more effective regulation as a contributor?

    Given the impending deregulation in the USA, will the trends remain ?

    An open question?
    -30-

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