How operations can prioritize highwall safety

By |  April 4, 2023
Photo: JazzIRT/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Highwalls have been the source of a number of accidents over the last decade, according to the Mine Safety & Health Administration. Photo: JazzIRT/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

As the end of winter neared, the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) issued a safety alert about highwalls.

According to MSHA, nine miners died and 27 were injured since 2012 because of falling rocks and materials from hazardous highwalls.

To avoid highwall-related accidents, the agency advises operators to develop and follow a plan for the safe control of all highwalls where miners work and travel in close proximity to highwalls. Miners should also be trained to recognize highwall hazards, the agency says.

Additionally, highwall exams should be conducted to assure hazards such as loose rocks, overhangs and trees are taken down or supported prior to work or travel near highwalls. Highwalls should be examined more frequently after rain, freezing and thawing, according to MSHA.

Other practices MSHA advises mine operators to follow are to:

• Scale highwalls to eliminate hazards such as loose rocks or overhangs. Perform scaling from a position that will not expose miners to injury. Until hazards are corrected, place warning signs or barricades to prevent entry.

• Restrict highwall height to allow available equipment to safely scale highwalls. If benching is necessary, provide adequate bench width based on the type of equipment used for routine clearing or scaling operations.

• Develop blasting plans and use proper blasting techniques. Also, examine highwalls after blasting.

• Remove trees, vegetation and unconsolidated material a safe distance from the top edge of highwalls.

• Never park equipment, perform maintenance or store materials beneath highwalls.

• Use diversion ditches or slope the ground so surface runoff drains away from highwalls.

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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