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What are the risks in the mining industries?

Mining is one of the riskiest fields of human endeavor. Not only are there dangers associated with drilling through the earth hundreds of feet below the surface, but the health hazards posed by dust, machinery and the small margin of error for mistakes contribute to the extreme chances necessarily taken by minders in order to get the job done. Mining poses a greater risk of on the job fatalities than any other industry.

Fatal occupational injury rates
Fatal occupational injury rates by industry division, 20021.
Rates of fatal mining injuries
Rates of fatal mining injuries by type of employer and commodity, 1993-1997 and 1998-20022.

One of the mitigating factors when it comes to the rate of fatal accidents suffered by miners is the class of worker. Independent contractors suffer a much number of injuries per capita than any other class of worker. This is primarily due to the fact that over the data gathering period the number of independent contractors in the mining field increased dramatically3.

Number and 5-year average rate of fatal mining injuries
Number and 5-year average rate of fatal mining injuries by type of employer and commodity at various work locations, 1998-20024.

The type of mine is critical when it comes to determining the safety of a miner. Underground metal mines have a fatal accident rate twice that of coal mines, while surface mines have extremely low rate of on-site deaths. The presence of machinery in close quarters, unpredictable geological formations under the earth and a low chance of surviving an accident contribute to a higher death rate.

Number and distribution of fatal mining injuries
Number and distribution of fatal mining injuries by type of incident and work location, 1998-20025.

In examining the kinds of activities that pose the greatest danger, it becomes clear that the type of mine once again plays a role. Surface mines have very little chance of explosions due to dust or of having workers crushed by cave ins, just as underground mines run a lower risk of workers being run over by a truck or other piece of heavy equipment. The same can be said of the causes of non-fatal injury. This makes it difficult to generalize the risks of mining in general, as statistics tell us that each mining operation must be examined based on its own specific characteristics.

Rate of lost-workday injuries by type of incident
Rate of lost-workday injuries by type of incident and work location, 1998-20026.
Numbers of deaths, crude mortality rates, and age-adjusted mortality rates
Numbers of deaths, crude mortality rates, and age-adjusted mortality rates for U.S. residents aged 15 or older with coal workers' pneumoconiosis recorded as an underlying or contributing cause on the death certificate, 1968-19997.

One area where NIOSH data is not ambiguous is in the risk minors face when it comes to developing a fatal disease as a result of inhaling dust or toxic airborne agents. Improvements in safety technology combined with a greater awareness of the risks posed by coal and other forms of dust have managed to dramatically lower the rate of death amongst miners from this particular cause.

1NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid304.htm
2NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid309.htm
3Fotta-BA, Rethi-L 1996. Independent Contractor Employment and Accident Trends in Metal/NonMetal Mining. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/pubs/pubreference/outputid46.htm
4NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid403.htm
5NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid310.htm
6NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid314.htm
7NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid322.htm

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