Miners die on the job at a significantly higher rate than workers in all U.S. industry as a whole.
In 26 states, mining has the highest worker fatality rate of any industry.
To help prevent further injuries and deaths, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is providing funding for both internal and external studies.
"A Compendium of NIOSH Mining Research 2000," highlights the projects currently under way at the Institute's mining research laboratories in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Spokane, Wash.
NIOSH said it is using the latest in high-tech tools to better understand the conditions and situations that place miners at risk, and to design effective, practical safeguards.
Among these tools are advanced sensors coupled with new monitoring systems, new computer analysis and simulation of physical hazards and controls, interactive video training and virtual reality.
The research will simulate progress in critical areas, from preventing fires and roof falls to safety training, according to NIOSH.
"Dramatic changes in the mining industry pose new challenges for preventing job-related injuries and illnesses, even as they offer new opportunities that we could not have dreamed of a few years ago," said NIOSH Director Dr. Linda Rosenstock. "We are proud of the work we are doing, with the help of our outside partners in industry and labor, to develop and apply new research tools in this important mission."
Examples of NIOSH's research include wiring a coal mine with a three-dimensional array of seismic microphones linked to a computer to record and analyze the sounds caused by stresses in the tons of rock that surround a mine.
By monitoring these sounds and coupling the information then generated with mappings of stress patterns and complex geology, researchers may be able to identify the conditions likely to result in "coal bumps," the violent rock stress bursts that can trigger cave-ins.
NIOSH is also developing and testing new programs to bring miner safety training into the 21st Century through development of virtual reality applications, videos, and computer simulations.
In one such program, a simulation immerses the trainee in a realistic cyber emergency -- a mine fire that replicates an actual disaster.
Copies of "A Compendium of NIOSH Mining Research 2000," are available from the NIOSH toll-free number at (800) 356-4674.
Additional information on NIOSH research is also available at www.cdc.gov/niosh.