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Coal Mining Deaths Hit Record Low In 2014

Stephanie Joyce

Coal mining deaths in 2014 hit a record low, according to new data from the Department of Labor. Sixteen coal miners died on the job in 2014, two fewer than the previous record low in 2009. Joseph Main, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, says it’s a sign that the agency’s work in the last few decades has been successful.

“If you look at the distance we’ve came since 1977 and where we’re at now, I always say that the distance we have to go is shorter,” he says. 

Nevertheless, Main says there’s more work to be done in order to get fatalities to zero. He says the agency is rolling out new rules in the near future that would require proximity detection sensors on crushing equipment. MSHA has also recently stepped up its enforcement, especially for repeat violators.

Bri Jones is executive director of the Equality State Policy Center. She says it's important to remember the miners who died on the job this year, including two in Wyoming, but she praised MSHA's enforcement efforts and says those should be replicated in other industries.

“[MSHA] has a good model that relies on education, cooperation and then also the threat of enforcement and really meaningful penalties,” she says.

All mining deaths, not just coal mining, are also expected to be down this year, although not at record lows

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