Background While safety in the U.S. coal mining industry has improved over the past two decades, general occupational health research shows that risk of injury varies across individual worksites with differing workplace safety cultures.
Aims In this study, we evaluate if mine level characteristics reflecting ‘sick mines’ are associated with higher injury rates.
Methods We downloaded MSHA data on Part 50 injuries, mine characteristics, employment and production, dust sampling, noise sampling, and violations. We aggregated the data by year for each coal mine for the period of 2000–2019. Hierarchical GEE multivariable models were developed to evaluate mine level characteristics indicating inadequate adherence to health and safety regulations on risk of traumatic injury. Models controlled for trend, production, employment, geographic region, and the variation that occurs within each mine separately.
Results Despite a decline in injury rates by 5.6% per year, the following indicators of inadequate adherence to health and safety regulations were positiviely associated with increased injury rates: +2.2% increase in injury rates for every 10 substantial-significant violations in a year; +2.6% for each safeguard violation; +2.4% for each 10% increase in dust samples exceeding the permissible exposure limit; +0.5% for each 10% increase of permitted 90dBA 8-hour noise exposure dose. If a fatality occurred in a mine, injury rates increased by 12.9% in the same given year. Presence of safety committees was not associated with injury rates.
Discussion We observed a strong correlation between poor adherence to health and safety regulations and injury rates in U.S. coal mines.
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