Developing a playbook on powered haulage safety

By and |  March 15, 2022
The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health's ErgoMine app provides an entire audit dedicated to haul trucks. Photo: P&Q Staff

The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health’s ErgoMine app provides an entire audit dedicated to haul trucks. Photo: P&Q Staff

Surface mines are dynamic, challenging work environments involving diverse work activities, the use of complex machinery and a range of mobile and powered haulage equipment.

Between 2003 and 2018, 109 of 739 (15 percent) fatalities at U.S. mines were caused by hazards related to working near or operating mobile and powered haulage equipment at mines employing six or more miners. In the same period, 1,543 nonfatal injuries occurred involving surface mobile equipment at mines employing more than six miners.

MSHA’s proposed rule

In 2018, the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) published a request for information (RFI) to gather details from the mining community on the availability, implementation and use of engineering controls in mobile equipment and belt conveyors.

To address the RFI, MSHA last September announced a proposed rule requiring that mine operators employing six or more mine workers develop, implement and update a written safety program for surface mobile and powered haulage equipment.

The purpose of a safety program is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths. An effective safety program uses proactive approaches to manage workplace safety and health. A proactive approach includes looking for and fixing hazards before injuries or illnesses are caused, as opposed to taking a reactive approach where hazards are addressed after a mine worker is injured, becomes sick or dies.

Within MSHA’s proposed rule, there are four types of actions mine operators must include in the written safety program:

1. Identify and analyze hazards and reduce the resulting risks related to the movement and operation of surface mobile equipment

2. Develop and maintain procedures and schedules for routine maintenance and non-routine repairs for surface mobile equipment

3. Identify available and newly emerging feasible technologies that can enhance safety and evaluate whether to adopt them

4. Train miners and others to identify and address or avoid hazards related to surface mobile equipment

As the industry awaits the final declaration of the MSHA rule, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) has several products available aimed at proactively improving the recognition of hazards related to surface mobile equipment. These products are ready for use and can easily be adapted to address mine site-specific needs – and then incorporated into a safety program.

Three of these NIOSH products are EXAMiner, ErgoMine, and Safety & Health Toolbox Talks.


EXAMiner is a hazard recognition training software that provides mine workers the opportunity to practice searching for hazards in virtual work environments.

These work environments are represented as panoramic scenes of different mine locations that workers search with the goal of finding hazards. After completing a search, mine workers are provided with feedback on their performance, along with information about the hazards.

EXAMiner is a versatile tool giving users the opportunity to customize hazard recognition training in several ways. First, EXAMiner comes with pre-loaded NIOSH scenes that trainers can use to create custom training content focused on specific work environments or hazard types. Work environments in the pre-loaded NIOSH scenes include the pit, plant, shop, roadways and haul roads.

Trainers can use NIOSH-developed scenarios during training. Each NIOSH scenario is focused on one incident type and made up of NIOSH scenes that include hazards specific to that incident type. While there are other hazards unrelated to the scenario’s specific incident type included in the scenes, mine workers are instructed to search scenes only for the hazards associated with the focus incident type.

After completing a scenario, a debrief session gives trainers the opportunity to reinforce information about the hazards with mine workers. Additionally, trainers can fully customize their hazard recognition training content by uploading images of their own work environments into EXAMiner to create mine-specific hazard scenes.

When using this functionality, trainers can upload images that vary in size, location, number and type of hazard. Trainers can also include supplemental information with each hazard to reinforce learning.

NIOSH developed EXAMiner as a practical tool for mine operators to train mine workers to search for and find mine hazards. EXAMiner can be readily incorporated into a safety program to address surface mobile equipment.

NIOSH scenes represent a variety of jobsites found at typical surface limestone mines. Many of these scenes focus on incident types and hazards related to surface mobile equipment. Mine operators can, therefore, use NIOSH scenes to build scenarios to train all workers to identify hazards related to surface mobile equipment.

EXAMiner also gives mine operators the ability to create custom training materials based on specific types of mobile equipment or unique work processes used at their sites by uploading their own images into the software. Using this functionality gives mine operators the opportunity to highlight site-specific hazards and draw attention to mine locations or tasks where workers are at increased risk of exposure to mobile equipment.

In addition, training materials can easily be updated as mobile equipment changes and mining progresses because mine operators are able to continuously upload new images and create new materials using EXAMiner.

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