Fatal Falls from Heights Increasing in Mining

Source: Dominik Vanyi/Unsplash

According to the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), 28 miners have died after falling from heights over the last 10 years and deaths from falls have increased from 8% to 19% of mining fatalities in the last two years.

The most common violations are truck drivers climbing on top of their vehicles, along with maintenance and quarry personnel climbing to or working without fall protection in high places.

MSHA says that, between January 2019 and June 2020, 92 imminent danger orders were issued for people working at height without fall protection.

Supervisors have been ordered down from dangerous locations.

MSHA has issued a safety alert listing best practices for preventing falls:

  • Design work areas and develop job tasks to reduce fall hazards;
  • Establish an effective fall prevention and protection program, and provide task- and site-specific hazard training;
  • Supply a fall protection harness and lanyard to each employee who might work at height or at a location unprotected by handrails;
  • Provide identifiable, secure anchor points to attach lanyards;
  • Enforce fall protection equipment use – as well as safe work-at-height policies and procedures – with employees;
  • Supply mobile or stationary platforms or scaffolding for projects that have fall hazards; and
  • Provide safe truck tarping and bulk truck hatch access facilities.

According to NIOSH, most fatal falls occurred during maintenance and repair and during installation, construction, or dismantling operations.

Miners affected were most often categorized as laborers, equipment operators, mechanics, and truck drivers. Nearly half the fatalities occurred due to falls from height.

Failure of the walking/standing surface, falling through an opening, and unexpected movement of equipment or ground were the leading causes.

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