Occupational Health News Roundup

After last week's triumphant rescue of 33 miners from Chile's San José mine, attention has turned to mine safety in Chile and worldwide.

The Associated Press reports that President Sebastian Piñera fired the top regulators from Chile's mine safety agency and promised to triple its budget. In the weeks following the San José collapse, at least 18 small mines were shut down for safety violations. Piñera has promised that in the coming days he'll unveil a proposal for more effectively protecting Chilean workers, and a commission is investigating the San José disaster and will recommend changes on mine safety. According to the BBC, Piñera has also committed to Chile's signing an International Labour Organisation convention on mine health and safety.

The BBC also highlights the dangers of mining around the world, and a mine disaster in China's Henan province provides a tragic contrast to the Chilean story: 37 workers have been confirmed dead after an explosion, in a mine that reportedly lacked clear safety zones and rescue equipment.

Meanwhile, in the US, the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch disaster, which killed 29 miners, had already focused regulators' attention on mine safety. The Washington Post (in an article featuring a quote from Celeste) follows up on the administration's push to address a backlog of contested citations - but the list of unresolved appeals has been swelling as the mine safety agency issues more citations and more companies fight them.

In other news:

Seattle Times: Washington state's Department of Labor & Industries found 39 willful violations at the Tesoro refinery where seven workers were killed in an explosion in April, and fined the company $2.38 million.

The Guardian: BP plans to shut down the external safety ombudsman it established after the 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery, which killed 15 workers.

The Ecologist: Impoverished Roma people in France have turned to scavenging e-waste, although they lack the skills and equipment to safely extract metals from electronics.

Medline Plus: University of British Columbia researchers analyzed US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data and found that workers faced with persistent, loud industrial noises are at higher risk for heart disease. Their report appears in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Associated Press: More than 30 cases of MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) have been diagnosed in the island community of Vinalhaven, Maine over the past two summers. The working theory is that working in the lobster industry causes lots of small hand traumas, making it easier for bacteria to gain a foothold.

More like this

All 33 of the miners who were trapped in Chile's San José mine have been safely lifted to the surface, as have the six rescuers who descended into the mine during the operation. Shift supervisor Luis Urzua was the last miner lifted to safety in the specially designed capsule that traversed the…
Last week, I was fortunate to be able to attend the opening of a Smithsonian Museum of Natural History exhibit dedicated to the rescue of 33 miners from the San José mine in Chile, and meet two of miners whose story captivated the world as they endured 69 days underground following a mine…
Sixty-nine days after an explosion trapped 33 miners 2,000 feet underground in the San José copper and gold mine in Copiapó, Chile, rescuers have begun lifting miners to the surface. As of 6am this morning, eight miners have been pulled to safety: Florencio Avalos, Mario Sepulveda, Juan Illanes,…
José Herrera, a contract worker at a Citgo refinery in Corpus Christi, was working on equipment when a pipe ruptured and scorched one-third of his body with 550-degree oil. Herrera is now disabled and in constant pain, even in his sleep. Workersâ compensation insurance covers his extensive medical…

While mining presents an at risk work environment modern mining techniques and work practices provide a safe work environment. Improving the safety performance at mining operations relies on a cooperative work environment where all employees work together to improve. The current federal inspections offer little help in advancing the safety performance and focus on finding minor issues that citations may be filed upon.

Job
Fatalities
Fatalities per
100,000 employees

Fishermen
53147.2
Pilots
10490.4
Timber cutter
6684.6
Structural metal workers
3661.0
Waste collectors
3740.7
Farmers and ranchers
29237.2
Power-line workers
3834.9
Miners
15634.5
Roofers
8133.5
Truck drivers
95727.5
All occupations5,8404.0

We need to stop fishing, flying, cutting trees, building steel buildings, collecting waste, farming and using electricity before mining.

Maybe the current regs and government strategy has nothing to do with preventing workplace deaths. And are all political

While the current mine-safety regulatory system isn't as effective as we'd like it to be, it deserves a lot of the credit for bringing annual US coal mining deaths down from 332 per 100,000 in 1900 to 22 per 100,000 in 2008.

By Liz Borkowski (not verified) on 21 Oct 2010 #permalink