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Issues & Policy

Safety & Health

Industrial Hygiene

Industrial hygiene is the science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace conditions that may cause workers' injury or illness. Industrial hygienists use environmental monitoring and analytical methods to detect the extent of worker exposure and employ engineering, work practice controls, and other methods to control potential health hazards.

Click here to view Nevada Mining Association IH Sampling Manual.

Occupational Health and Safety

One of our members’ most important responsibilities is the protection of their employees’ health and safety. “Safety First” is a philosophy widely shared by all members of the mining industry. We are committed to high levels of performance and continuous improvement in safety on the job and in the overall health and welfare of our employees.

Company Practices

It is a basic responsibility for our members to comply with all federal and state level regulations for health and safety and to cooperate with the Mine Safety & Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Training Section to the best of our ability. However, while compliance with laws and regulations is important, we measure our success by striving for health and safety performance above and beyond compliance. Companies in the mining industry undertake additional steps (in addition to those required by state and federal regulations) to improve health and safety in ways that are most appropriate for their businesses, employees, and corporate cultures.

  • Formal health and safety management programs at member company mines are designed to integrate protective measures and practices into how employees perform their daily jobs. We seek to protect and encourage the overall health and well-being of our employees, both on and off the job.
  • We invest heavily in ongoing training and evaluations to ensure that employees understand safety practices, which are built into processes and procedures associated with mine operations.
  • Certification of health and safety management systems to the Occupational Health and Safety Audit System (OHSAS) 18001 standard.

Industry Initiatives

The industry collaborates on health and safety training and resources—for example, the Mine Safety & Health Committee of NvMA organizes regular trainings on topics, such as conducting sampling to monitor particulates, noise, and mercury vapors. Because safety and health are critical across the industry, whether companies are members of NvMA or not, we offer these trainings to all interested parties. We also seek to leverage the greater experience of many of our larger members, who have been able to devote more resources to developing best practices, when training smaller, less experienced companies.

NVMA also seeks to develop strong relationships with industry regulators responsible for safety. We invite MSHA representatives to participate in many of our meetings so that we can discuss new and potential regulations, performance concerns, and general questions in a collaborative environment. MSHA representatives also serve as judges in our mine safety competitions, which builds their knowledge of our capabilities as well as our challenges.

Performance

Despite our best efforts and significant improvement over the last two decades, accidents do occur and occasionally result in injuries or even fatalities. As of the third quarter of 2009, there were 108 days lost due to nonfatal occupational injuries. The industry also had one fatality in 2009. We deeply regret the loss of this individual as well as the impact of injury and illness on other employees and their families. We believe that any injury, illness, or fatality resulting from employment in mining is unacceptable and will continue to seek improvement to reduce or eliminate these incidents.

Fatalities and Days Lost
Nevada Mining Industry 2007-2010

 

2010*

2009

2008

2007

Fatalities

2

1

3

2

Non-Fatal Days Lost

124

125

174

178

Total Working Days

834,617

821,755

827,884

614,259

* Preliminary Data

Mine Safety Regulations

Mine safety is highly regulated both by the state and federal governments.

Federal Legislation

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, passed in 1977, requires regular inspections of all surface mines, mandatory training, creation of rescue teams for all underground mines, and involvement of mine employees and their representatives in health and safety.

The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 contains a number of provisions to improve safety and health in America’s mines.

The Mining Safety & Health Administration (MSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor conducts inspections and investigations at mine sites to ensure compliance with these acts. When inspectors and investigators observe violations, they issue citations and orders to mine operators that require them to make corrections. MSHA also investigates mine accidents, complaints of discrimination related to employee health and safety rights, reports of hazardous conditions, and criminal violations; improves safety and health standards; and reviews mine operators’ operational plans and health and safety education and training programs.

State Regulations
Within Nevada, the Mine Safety and Training Section (MSATS) in the state’s Department of Business and Industry regulates mine health and safety. The mission of MSATS, created in 1909, is to establish and determine mine operator compliance with state and federal mine safety regulations and assist mine operators in achieving such compliance through training programs, consultation, and technical assistance.

Mine Safety Competitions
Two people lie unconscious on top of a 70 foot high drill mast while a team of safety experts rig a series of ropes and harnesses to scale it. Once at the top, they carefully maneuver the unconscious people into stretchers and lower them to the mine floor below. Nearby, a panel of expert judges watches closely, rating the team on performance.

Each year, mine emergency response teams (ERT) representing mining companies in Nevada come together to compete for awards of excellence in emergency response. The teams are graded on written test responses, as well as actions witnessed during scenarios. They are required to be experts in rescue techniques, knowledge of chemicals, CPR and first aid, and emergency equipment use, among other skills. Teams showcase their skills and abilities, and learn new techniques and best practices from each other.

Many of these teams are lucky enough to go years on end without putting their skills into practice outside of competitions. Each mine’s emergency response team is comprised of volunteers and companies grant time for training. They meet throughout the year to practice and learn about ongoing developments in emergency response. Many mine safety volunteers find involvement on these teams to be among the most rewarding aspects of their jobs. Many extend their dedication and service to their local communities, running ambulances and supporting local emergency response departments.

When an emergency occurs, these employees are expected to leave their posts immediately and respond, whether the emergency is at their mine or a neighboring site. Under the Mutual Aid Agreement, mining companies in Nevada have committed to sending emergency response teams whenever an emergency occurs at any mine in the state. This agreement not only commits resources to emergency situations, it furthers training and promotes sharing of best practices. Each team trains at sites around the state familiarizing them with operations, emergency procedures, and working structures of the teams they would be supporting.

Best practice sharing is also promoted through the emergency response subcommittee of the Nevada Mining Association’s Safety and Health Committee. Emergency response team captains attend monthly subcommittee meetings, engaging in topical discussions and creating an informal network for learning. Miners and mining companies are also committed to working together to elevate proactive prevention practices, a strategy which generates the biggest gains in mine safety.

Emergency response teams are prepared to respond to any emergency, and mine safety competitions ensure that they are equipped to spring into action when required.


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