Report Offers Suggestions for NIOSH Mining Program

A report by the National Academy of Sciences says that researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) Mine Safety and Health Research Program could increase the program's effectiveness by proactively identifying “workplace hazards and establish[ing] more challenging and innovative goals toward hazard reduction.”

Overall, the 251-page report, released May 3, gives NIOSH high marks on its mining research program, rating the research arm a 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest) “for both relevance
of its work and impact of its research.”

“Despite a sharp decrease in available funds between 1998 and 2005, the NIOSH mining program has made major contributions to the engineering control of hazards in the workplace and the development and transfer of new knowledge to the mining industry,” the academy’s report says.

However, the report asserts that federal researchers could do more in designing ways for miners to be able to escape underground fires, explosions and floods.

The NIOSH mining program conducts research to eliminate occupational diseases, injuries and fatalities from the mining workplace. It currently conducts research in seven areas:

  • Respiratory disease prevention.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss prevention.
  • Cumulative musculoskeletal injury prevention.
  • Traumatic injury prevention.
  • Mine disaster prevention and control.
  • Ground failure prevention.
  • Surveillance, training and intervention effectiveness.

Increased Interaction with MSHA Recommended

While the report lauds the NIOSH mining program's mission and goals as appropriate, it also suggests that the program should increase interaction with other NIOSH programs and extramural researchers as well as with MSHA, which the report says is where “research needs are closely aligned with its legislative priorities.”

In particular, the report says that NIOSH needs to implement new communications and tracking gear, rescue chambers and emergency breathing devices.

In addition, the report recommends that NIOSH's mining program place a greater emphasis on producing nontechnical information material that would be of more interest to mining operators, miners and other nontechnical users so they can be more inclined to deliver feedback.

Also, the report advises NIOSH to pay closer attention to emerging issues such as addressing the health effects of mixed exposures, dealing with issues associated with increased remote control and automated equipment and systems and substituting retiring researchers with an equally competent replacements.

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