MSHA encouraging operators to emphasize safety this week

By |  May 15, 2023

Powered haulage is among the accident areas the Mine Safety & Health Administration is currently focused on. Photo: Alexandr Baranov/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Safety is a core value of the industry. There’s no doubt about that.

That said, the rate at which fatal accidents is happening right now is unacceptable. The industry companies that value safety would say as much, as 18 coal and metal/nonmetal miners have already died in accidents this year, according to the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA). 

Eight of the year’s 18 fatalities happened at aggregate operations. Of those eight, six are crushed stone sites, one is a sand and gravel operation and another mines lime.

MSHA leadership is well aware of the number of 2023 fatal accidents, debuting a campaign this spring called “Stand Down to Save Lives.” MSHA assistant secretary Chris Williamson offered P&Q perspective on the campaign last week in an exclusive interview, noting that no one in mining likes the way the year started off but that the industry must unite to ultimately put a stop to accidents.

“I thought it was important in thinking about it to create an annual day where we ask the entire mining community to really focus on safety,” Williamson says. “Take some time [and] have some discussions.”

MSHA established May 17 as “Stand Down to Save Lives” day, but Williamson’s vision is to make the week around that date one when mine operators emphasize safety with employees every year.

“The week is really an opportunity to ask everybody to come together and take some time to focus on some of these things – and address some of these issues that, unfortunately, we keep seeing,” Williamson says.

Getting to the bottom of the accidents

Christopher Williamson


So, what is happening in the nation’s mines that’s driven the number of fatal accidents up for the second year in a row?

In an April letter to the mining community, Williamson points out how some of this year’s fatal accidents involved vehicle collisions, electrocutions, falls from elevated surfaces, equipment rollovers and drowning. Williamson identified some underlying themes during his sit-down with P&Q.

“We’re seeing less experience at the mine site – less overall experience,” he says. “Some of the issues we’re seeing are [related to] training: site-specific hazard awareness training, task training [and] lack of adequate training. Examinations across the board [are another]: workplace examinations, examinations of machinery and different types of equipment.”

Williamson characterizes some of the underlying issues at hand as “bread-and-butter safety things” – ones mine operators can ultimately get ahold of.

“They’re basic things,” he says. “We know that if they’re done correctly, [we] can identify and eliminate hazards that potentially could cause accidents that can cost miners their lives.”

Learn more about “Stand Down to Save Lives” day and get the latest on MSHA in P&Q’s Q&A with Williamson here.

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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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