Mining Safety: Deadly Falls from Height Increasing
August 27, 2020
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately five fall-related fatalities in the mining industry annually. But new data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) suggests that this number is growing rapidly and that it has actually doubled in the last two years alone. Since most falls from height are preventable, it is critical to understand the root causes behind these deadly incidents in order to stop them from happening in the future.
A fall from a height is generally defined as a fall from a higher place, such as a scaffold, ladder, roof, building, or other elevated surface. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, determined that some of the most common contributing factors for fatal falls from heights in the mining industry are conducting maintenance and/or repairs and installation, construction, and dismantling operations. Miners classified as truck drivers, laborers, equipment operators, and mechanics are most often affected by fall-related hazards, though all workers in the mining industry face associated risks.
NIOSH reports that some of the leading causes behind fatal falls from height for miners are:
- Unexpected movement of equipment or the ground
- Failure of the walking or standing surface
- Falls through an opening
Even if a fall is not deadly, it can result in a variety of serious and disabling injuries. Individuals who fall from heights may sustain broken bones, head, or back injuries. Sometimes these injuries lead to time away from work, medical bills, and long-term treatment plans (which sometimes involve surgery or other intensive medical interventions).
Safety Tips to Prevent Deadly Falls
Employers have to take steps to address and mitigate known risks in the workplace, which includes the fall-related hazards that miners are currently facing. According to the MSHA’s data, some of the most frequently observed fall safety violations in mining involve employees who are working without fall protection in high places and the failure to provide truck drivers climbing atop their vehicles and maintenance and quarry personnel working at height with adequate fall protection.
The MSHA says that some of the most effective ways to prevent dangerous and deadly falls from height from happening include:
- Providing training programs for all employees exposed to fall-related hazards. Training programs will teach employees how to recognize hazards in addition to learning useful ways to minimize them
- Designing work areas and developing job tasks with the goal of reducing fall hazards
- Supplying fall protection harnesses and lanyards to all employees who will be working at height or on locations with no handrails
- Providing identifiable and secure anchor points to attach lanyards to
- Enforcing fall protection equipment use as well as maintaining safe work-at-height policies and procedures
- Supplying stationary or mobile platforms/scaffolding for projects with known fall hazards
- Providing safe truck tarping and bulk truck hatch access facilities (to minimize climbing on top of vehicles, etc.)
Accidents are bound to happen in the workplace, but when an employer takes sufficient measures to address known dangers it can quite literally make the difference between life and death. Far too often employers fail to implement adequate safety and health programs and workers are injured – or killed – in avoidable accidents as a result.
If you were injured because of your employer’s negligence, someone at our firm can help you file a workers’ compensation claim. If you would like to learn more, contact a representative online who can help you now.
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