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Poor adherence to dust, noise and safety regulations predict injury rates in underground coal mines


Background While safety in US coal mining has improved over the past two decades, general occupational health research shows that risk of injury varies across individual worksites and is influenced by worksite safety cultures and practices.

Methods In this longitudinal study, we evaluated whether mine-level characteristics reflecting poor adherence to health and safety regulations in underground coal mines are associated with higher acute injury rates. We aggregated Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) data by year for each underground coal mine for the period 2000–2019. Data included part-50 injuries, mine characteristics, employment and production, dust sampling, noise sampling, and violations. Multivariable hierarchical generalised estimating equations (GEE) models were developed.

Results Based on the final GEE model, despite an average annual decline in injury rates by 5.5%, the following indicators of inadequate adherence to health and safety regulations were associated with increased average annual injury rates: +2.9% for each 10% increase in dust samples exceeding the permissible exposure limit; +0.6% for each 10% increase of permitted 90 dBA 8-hour noise exposure dose; +2.0% for every 10 substantial-significant MSHA violations in a year; +1.8% for each rescue/recovery procedure violation; +2.6% for each safeguard violation. If a fatality occurred in a mine, injury rates increased by 11.9% in the same year, but declined by 10.4% in the following year. The presence of safety committees was associated with a 14.5% decline in injury rates.

Discussion In US underground coal mines, injury rates are associated with poor adherence to dust, noise and safety regulations.

  • coal dust
  • noise
  • coal mining
  • epidemiology
  • occupational health

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