U.S. coal industry scores record low in 2014 for fatalities

Preliminary data released Jan. 5 by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration indicates that coal mining deaths dropped from 20 in 2013 to 16 in 2014, the lowest annual number of coal mining deaths ever recorded in the United States.

The previous record low was 18 in 2009. While the numbers of coal mines and miners have recently declined, the number of deaths in 2014 is about half what the industry experienced in the early 2000s, when the numbers of working coal miners were at comparable levels, the agency noted. Ten coal mining deaths occurred underground and six occurred at surface operations.

MSHA cracked down especially hard on safety enforcement after after a 2010 explosion at Massey Energy‘s Upper Big Branch deep mine in West Virginia killed 29 miners.

“Mining deaths are preventable, and those that occurred in 2014 are no exception,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “While MSHA and the mining industry have made a number of improvements and have been moving mine safety in the right direction, these deaths, particularly those in the metal and nonmetal industry, makes clear the need to do more to protect our nation’s miners.”

Among the measures MSHA has undertaken to prevent mining deaths are increasing surveillance and strategic enforcement through impact inspections at mines with troubling compliance histories; enhancing pattern of violations actions at mines with chronic violation histories; implementing special initiatives, such as “Rules to Live By,” which focuses attention on the most common causes of mining deaths; and engaging in outreach efforts with the mining community. 

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.