Powered Haulage Safety in Mining

Powered haulage accidents are the leading cause of fatalities in the mining industry, accounting for 50% of fatalities in 2017 and 57% of the fatalities in the first four months of 2018. MSHA classifies both mobile equipment and conveyor-related accidents as powered haulage.

According to MSHA, from 1985 through 2016 there were 370 accidents involving mobile loading and haulage equipment that caught fire, resulting in 4 fatalities, 156 lost time accidents, 10 restricted duty only accidents and 200 all other accidents.

Last year, there were three fatalities that involved a vehicle operator who was not wearing a seat belt (there have been 35 similar fatalities since 2007) and four fatalities where a large-haul truck collided with a small vehicle (there have been 23 similar fatalities recorded since 2003).

Four of the fatalities that occurred in the last 12 months occurred after a miner attempted to perform maintenance on an energized conveyor or attempted to cross an energized conveyor in an unsafe location.

Following its review of accidents that occurred in 2017, the agency decided to make powered haulage safety a higher priority. On April 3, MSHA asked for best practices from mine operators, miners, trainers and safety consultants concerning strategies and systems the industry has implemented to boost the safe operation of powered haulage equipment.

MSHA’s request for feedback focused on seat belt usage, collisions involving both large and smaller vehicles, and conveyor safety.

Some of those providing input suggested that mine operators invest in technological advancements to slash the number of fatal vehicle accidents. These included cameras, proximity detection systems, and seatbelt interlocks.

The following are best practices to prevent accidents:

  • Establish and keep current an Escape and Evacuation Plan for exiting equipment in the event of a fire as per § 77.1101. Train employees on contents of this plan;
  • Rigid and substantially constructed stairs or ladders attached to the equipment at both ends for an alternate escape is recommended. These can provide a safe and quick escape to the ground while minimizing the risk of falling from an elevation in a panic situation; and
  • Recommendations for primary and secondary access systems of standard walkways, stairs, and ladders are contained in International Standard Organization (ISO) 2867.

MSHA is urging mine operators, miners and trainers to identify the root cause of accidents to help target miner training and mentoring for more effective accident prevention. MSHA also has collaborated with mining associations to raise awareness and improve safe work practices.