Mine Fatalities – 100 Years of Progress
Mine fatalities in the U.S. have dropped precipitously since the first regulatory agency was established in 1910. As 2015 comes to a close let’s look back and see the progress in 3 charts. All data comes from MSHA.gov.
The Long View
In 1917, 3,679 men left for work never to return home. The average number of mining fatalities from 2011 to 2015 was 38. While 1 life lost is 1 too many, we must acknowledge the astounding progress in mine safety. Fatalities have decreased nearly 10,000% in less than 100 years.
The sheer number of mine fatalities in the early 20th century is staggering. On average 2866 mining deaths occurred every year between 1915 and 1930, nearly 8 each day. 8 families losing a father, son, or brother every day. That’s unimaginable now.
Mine Fatalities After the Mine Act
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, or Mine Act, was passed in late 1977. This large and important piece of legislation brought all U.S. mines under federal jurisdiction and implemented a significant number of safety regulations. The Mine Act has far-reaching ramifications throughout the U.S. mining industry.
Significant provisions include:
- Mandatory safety training
- Annual inspections of all surface mine
- All underground mines are required to have mine rescue teams
Let’s take a look at mine fatalities in the decades since the Mine Act was enacted:
A substantial effect is apparent. Since the Mine Act’s passage, deaths have significantly decreased. Mine fatalities dropped by 53% from the decade before the Mine Act was passed to the decade after.
Before the Mine Act:
Average of 356 mine fatalities per year between 1967 and 1976
After the Mine Act:
Average of 189 mine fatalities per year between 1978 and 1987
Progress Since 2000
Finally, let’s look at the beginning of the 21st century.
Another significant drop. Mine fatalities have gone down 63% from the first half of the century to the second. From 85 deaths in 2000 to 45 in 2014 and 25 in 2015.
Substantial progress has been made, but even one death is too many. Mine operators and employees will continue to work towards that goal.