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MSHA: Small Mines Office Improves Safety, Reduces Fatalities

Since the creation of its Small Mines Office 5 years ago, smaller mining operations in the United States have experienced a significant decline in fatal accidents, MSHA said.

Small mine operations – those that employ five or fewer miners – that received assistance from the Small Mines Office between 2003-2007 reported a 66 percent decrease in their fatality incidence rates. Prior to 2003, smaller mining operations typically experienced a higher rate of fatal accidents compared to their larger counterparts.

During the 5-year period, small operations reduced their fatality incidence rate from .053 to 0.18 fatalities per 200,000 workers. Large mining operations, meanwhile, reduced their fatality rates from 0.21 to 0.17 during the same period.

The Small Mines Office helps small mine operators develop written safety and health programs tailored to their specific operations.

Kevin Burns, manager of the Small Mines Office, indicated that the agency's "robust enforcement efforts coupled with a dose of assistance that increases their ability to comply with MSHA safety and health regulations” largely contributed to the decrease in fatal incidence rate at small mining operations.

According to MSHA, small mining operations represent about 50 percent of all U.S. mining operations. Since its inception, the Small Mines Office has assisted more than 6,500 small mine operator in the United States.

"MSHA's Small Mines Office has clearly played a major role in assisting small mine operators in reducing the workplace hazards that can cause deadly mining accidents," said MSHA Administrator Richard Stickler. "These efforts have demonstrated that good health and safety practices need not be expensive, time-consuming or complicated."

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