Safety Breakthrough-Reduced Exposure Mining System (REMS); SPECIAL PUBLICATION SP-26-94
Description:Between 1986 and 1992, there were268 deaths and 54,642 severe injuries to workers in underground U. S. mining operations. Clearly, this level of health and safety risk is not acceptable. While most underground coal mining jobs are dangerous, some are much more dangerous than others. Many jobs in an underground coal mine are clustered around the working face—the place where machinery digs coal from the surrounding rock. The hazards in this area are numerous: When the coal is removed, the ground around it becomes unstable and can cave in on the workers. The mining machines used there are large, heavy, powerful, and move in many different directions in a very confined space, presenting danger to workers. Also, the machines churn up coal dust that causes black lung and other ailments. Figure1 shows a modern radio remote controlled continuous mining machine and its operator. In a typical mine, the jobs with the greatest exposure to hazards involve operation of machinery that cuts tunnel-like passages into the coal (the continuous mining machine) and machines that insert supportive steel bolts into the rock above the work area (roof bolting machines). The workers who endure these hazards are at almost twice the risk of death or disabling injury than co-workers in other safer areas of the mine. Of the statistics quoted above, 106 of the 268 deaths and 21,552 of the 54,642 severe injuries occurred in jobs involving equipment at the working face. The operators of roof bolting and continuous mining machines account for only 21% of the work force but suffered 40% of the deaths and 39% of the lost-time injuries during1986-1992. These death and injury rates are almost twice the rate for workers in other underground mining jobs (see figure 2). The estimated total cost of the 106 fatalities and21,552 lost-time injuries was $327 million from 1986-1992. On average, each fatality cost over $1 million and each lost-time injury costs in excess of $9,000.
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