Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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Overview

The U.S. mining sector has the highest fatality rate of any industry in the country. Fortunately, advances made over the past three decades in mining technology, equipment, processes, procedures, and workforce education and training have significantly improved safety and health. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Safety and Health Research Program (Mining Program) has played a large role in these improvements. An assessment of the relevance and impact of NIOSH Mining Program research by a National Research Council committee reveals that the program makes essential contributions to the enhancement of health and safety in the mining industry. To further increase its effectiveness, the Mining Program should proactively identify workplace hazards and establish more challenging and innovative goals toward hazard reduction. The ability of the program to successfully expand its activities, however, depends on available funding.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780309103428
  • Publisher: National Academies Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2007
  • Pages: 290
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH

Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health


NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Copyright © 2007 National Academy of Sciences
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-309-10342-8



Chapter One

Summary

ABSTRACT The U.S. mining sector employs approximately 331,000 people but has one of the highest fatality rates of any U.S. industry. Fatalities, injuries, and disasters, although less frequent than in the past, continue to occur, and health concerns posed by gases, dusts, chemicals, noise, extreme temperatures, and other physical conditions continue to result in chronic and sometimes fatal illnesses. In the last three decades, improvements in mining technology, equipment, processes, procedures, and workforce education and training have resulted in greater safety and health. In conjunction with planned reviews of up to 15 of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research programs, the National Academies convened a committee of experts to review the NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Research Program (Mining Program) to evaluate the relevance of its work to improvements in occupational safety and health and the impact of NIOSH research in reducing workplace illnesses and injuries. Relevance was evaluated in terms of the priority of work carried out and itsconnection to improvements in workplace protection. Impact was evaluated in terms of its contributions to worker health and safety. The committee was also asked to assess the program's identification and targeting of new research areas, and to identify emerging research issues. Although responsibility for controlling workplace exposure to mining health and safety hazards lies with others, the Mining Program can be expected to contribute to reduction of these workplace hazards through its research and information dissemination. The committee concludes research of the Mining Program is in high-priority areas and adequately connected to improvements in the workplace. A rating of 4 on a five-point scale (where 5 is highest) is appropriate. Contributions of the program to improvements in workplace health and safety during the period evaluated (1997 to 2005) are considered major in some areas (respirable disease prevention, traumatic injury prevention), moderate in some areas (hearing loss prevention, ground failure prevention), and likely in a number of areas (disaster prevention, musculoskeletal injury prevention). Mining Program outputs are evaluated, accepted, and incorporated into stakeholder operations, and training outputs find wide use in the industry. The Mining Program is moderately engaged in technology transfer activities. A score of 4 for impact is appropriate. To increase its effectiveness, the program should more proactively identify workplace hazards and establish more challenging and innovative goals toward hazard reduction. Interaction with other NIOSH programs should be increased, as should interactions with extramural researchers, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) when research needs are closely aligned with MSHA's shorter-term and legislative requirements. Partnering with industry should be done more broadly such that research results can be more widely applied within the industry. The program should make better use of MSHA and other surveillance data, and work to make these surveillance programs more robust. A more strategic dissemination agenda is suggested that would incorporate training into the strategic goals of all research areas and explicit plans for transfer to small business worker populations. The committee concludes the NIOSH Mining Program makes essential contributions to the enhancement of health and safety in the mining industry. The ability of the program to expand its research and transfer activities in ways recommended in this report, however, is critically dependent on the availability of funding.

It is predicted that the U.S. mining industry will be challenged to produce more than 1.8 billion tons of coal annually by the year 2030, compared to current production of 1.1 billion tons (Energy Information Administration, 2006). Aggregate (sand, gravel, and stone) industry production is likely to grow, and increasing metal prices and an increased demand for metals and nonmetallic minerals worldwide are also predicted. Increased demand and production will ultimately lead to new technologies-and new hazards-in the workplace. The continued occurrence of accidents, injuries, and illnesses in the mining industry requires continuous and vigorous research on the detection and elimination of hazards that threaten the health and safety of miners. Advances in mining practices and procedures have greatly enhanced mine worker health and safety. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Safety and Health Research Program (and the former U.S. Bureau of Mines) has played a large role in these improvements. Continued quality research by the NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Research Program (hereafter called the Mining Program) should take into account changing technologies, practices, and procedures in the mining workplace.

In September 2004, NIOSH contracted with the National Academies to conduct a review of NIOSH research programs. The goal of this multiphase effort is to assist NIOSH in increasing the impact of its research in reducing workplace illness and injury and improving occupational safety and health. The National Academies agreed to conduct this review within the Division on Earth and Life Studies and the Institute of Medicine. A committee was appointed to develop a set of guidelines for use in the evaluation of NIOSH research programs. The evaluation criteria are presented in the so-called Framework Document (Appendix A). The Mining Program is the second program to be reviewed using the established guidelines.

The National Academies organized an ad hoc committee to evaluate the Mining Program. The Committee to Review the NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Research Program reviewed the program to evaluate the relevance and impact of its research on workplace health and safety, as well as to identify significant emerging health and safety issues in the mining workplace. Specifically, the committee was asked (1) to assess the Mining Program's progress toward reducing workplace illness and injury, providing numerical scores, on a five-point scale for both relevance and impact of the research (Box S-1); (2) to consider how well the Mining Program targets new research to areas most relevant to future improvements in workplace protection; and (3) to identify significant emerging health and safety issues in the mining workplace.

The committee used the Framework Document criteria for its evaluation. The evaluation was based largely on an evidence package presented to the committee by the Mining Program (NIOSH Mining Program Briefing Book, http://www.cdc. gov/niosh/nas/mining/), on presentations made by program managers and researchers during committee meetings and site visits to multiple NIOSH facilities, and on oral and written communications from several stakeholder groups. The committee reviewed documents related to NIOSH and the former U.S. Bureau of Mines. As an aid to its evaluation, the committee theorized what an "ideal" mining research program would comprise and identified the major issues that such a program would address.

ASSESSMENT OF RESEARCH RELEVANCE AND IMPACT

There has been a marked decrease in disasters, injuries, illnesses, and occupational diseases in the mining industry over the last several decades. This decrease is the result of many efforts including those of mine managers and workers, labor organizations, federal and state enforcement agencies, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, researchers, and others. Research and development are important components of the total Mining Program effort to make mines safer and healthier worksites. In assessing the contributions of the Mining Program to improvements in worker health and safety, the committee was asked to provide scores for both relevance and impact as per criteria in the Framework Document (Box S-1).

On the basis of its review, the committee assigned a score of 4 for relevance and a 4 for impact to the Mining Program.

In evaluating relevance and impact, the committee considered funding, resource allocation, number of employees, and the manner in which stakeholder input is obtained and incorporated into the research program. Program activities were considered in terms of their contributions toward achieving strategic goals and toward the quality and quantity of outputs. Particular attention was paid to the acceptance and use in the industry of developed technologies, guidelines, procedures, and training tools. The manner in which the Mining Program integrated surveillance, research activities, outputs, and technology transfer activities to achieve strategic goals was also considered.

PROGRAM PLANNING AND STRATEGIC GOALS

The seven strategic research areas identified by the Mining Program are (1) respiratory disease prevention; (2) noise-induced hearing loss prevention; (3) cumulative musculoskeletal injury prevention; (4) traumatic injury prevention; (5) mine disaster prevention and control; (6) ground failure prevention; and (7) surveillance, training, and intervention effectiveness. The program's mission, according to the Mining Program Briefing Book, is to "eliminate occupational diseases, injuries and fatalities from the mining workplace." Strategic and intermediate goals and performance measures have been established for each priority area.

The Mining Program mission cannot be accomplished solely through what NIOSH terms "a focused program of research and prevention." Workplace improvements are dependent on the ability to transfer research results into practice, but the Mining Program has no power to require or enforce implementation of its recommendations. External factors affect every aspect of the program, often preventing the realization of projected outcomes. A political climate favorable to the support of mining health and safety research and of the resulting recommendations is necessary. The level of annual funding for the Mining Program, specific appropriations to enhance research facilities, and additional funding for specific research areas are critically dependent on the input from several sources. These include industry, labor, the administration, and members of Congress.

The Mining Program's mission and goals are appropriate, but the Mining Program should establish more challenging, innovative goals and attendant objectives. Strategic and intermediate goals should be stated more precisely, and performance measures should be tied more closely to goals. In some cases, the committee could not establish clear connections between specific projects and goals. Goals and priorities should be reviewed regularly for appropriateness. The Mining Program solicits proposals from internal researchers to initiate new projects. Although these researchers are recognized by their peers for their expertise, they may not have the breadth of knowledge required to develop multidisciplinary proposals encompassing multiple strategic goals, a direction the Mining Program should take to be more effective.

At present, the Mining Program establishes research priorities primarily in response to stakeholder input or current events. This helps ensure the applicability of its research outputs. However, the Mining Program should take a more proactive approach to identifying and controlling hazards, including those that arise from changing mining conditions and technologies, thus eliminating the associated potential illnesses and injuries. Using surveillance data in combination with expanded external input to identify key priorities would help the Mining Program develop a more proactive approach to hazard identification and control.

The establishment of more challenging goals, specifying associated objectives and activities, and taking a more proactive stance toward identifying and responding to mining hazards would propel the Mining Program along a strategic course toward becoming an ideal program for the future.

EFFECTIVE INTERACTIONS

The Mining Program should increase interaction with other NIOSH programs including the Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, the Division of Safety Research, and the Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies. Ideally, research personnel with medical, epidemiological, engineering, geological, and industrial hygiene experience should work together as a research team to help address workplace issues including research about the organization of work. Program management should be more involved in envisioning worthwhile intra-and interprogram interactions. Additionally, full advantage should be taken of the NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Research Advisory Committee by adequately challenging it with substantial assignments. The advisory committee's findings, conclusions, and recommendations should be considered more fully in the Mining Program's decision-making process.

Interaction with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) should be enhanced in areas where research needs are closely aligned with MSHA's legislative and shorter-term priorities. The committee recognizes the benefits of partnering with MSHA to improve miner health and safety.

The Mining Program should fully utilize outside technical expertise through a vibrant extramural and contract research program. Given the cost of developing expertise to conduct innovative research, the Mining Program should take advantage of external expertise through an extramural research program. The extramural program should include both externally initiated research and contractors working on NIOSH-initiated research. This approach has an additional benefit of producing highly trained personnel for the industry at large, as well as for its own program.

Effort should be made to partner more broadly such that guidelines and processes are most relevant to the entire mining community. The Mining Program has an extensive list of partners within industry and academia. Partnering with specific mining companies is beneficial and key to technology transfer, but the committee is concerned that resources are directed toward developing solutions to problems that are site specific and not directly applicable through adaptations to the mining industry at large. The committee strongly believes the Mining Program should continue to develop international partnerships in the interest of contributing globally what technologies it can and to incorporate developments made internationally into the domestic workplace.

SURVEILLANCE AND MONITORING

The Mining Program should make better use of MSHA and other existing surveillance data and work to make these surveillance programs more robust. The Mining Program has access to a MSHA-maintained database of mining-related incident, injury, and illness data and conducts some surveillance on a project-specific basis. The committee considers the collection of surveillance data of utmost importance in monitoring mine worker health and safety conditions and in determining the effectiveness of Mining Program activities. An improved surveillance system would allow the Mining Program to evaluate intervention effectiveness, which should be incorporated into the strategic goals of all its relevant research areas.

More robust and better methods of monitoring in situ safety conditions in mines should also be developed. Research is needed to minimize safety risk to underground workers and to evaluate the potential for damage to surface facilities such as dams, buildings, pipelines, and road cuts whose failure could cause injury to persons on or near mine property. Recent advances in remote sensing, telemetering, and diagnostic methods should be evaluated, improved, and made known to mine operators for timely detection and avoidance of underground and surface mine hazards.

OUTPUTS

The Mining Program should place greater emphasis on outputs preferred by mining operators, miners, and other nontechnical users.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Mining Safety and Health Research at NIOSH Copyright © 2007 by National Academy of Sciences. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

SUMMARY....................1
1 INTRODUCTION....................15
Framework Committee Evaluation Guidelines....................16
Information Gathering....................16
Report Organization....................18
The U.S. Mining Industry....................18
Historical Perspectives....................21
PART I-PROGRAMMATIC EVALUATION 2 DESCRIPTION OF THE MINING PROGRAM....................27
Goal Definition and Project Selection....................28
Inputs....................30
Activities....................39
Technology Transfer....................39
Outputs....................41
Factors Affecting Relevance....................43
3 THE IDEAL MINING SAFETY AND HEALTH RESEARCH PROGRAM....................48
The Ideal Program....................48
Health Research Needs....................49
Safety Research Needs....................52
Comparison of the NIOSH Mining Program to the Ideal....................56
4 EVALUATION OF RELEVANCE AND IMPACT OF THE NIOSH MINING PROGRAM....................58
Evaluation of Relevance....................60
Evaluation of Impact....................62
5 PROGRESS IN TARGETING NEW RESEARCH AREAS....................68
Strategic Goals....................70
Project Selection....................70
Technology Transfer....................71
Findings....................71
6 EMERGING ISSUES IN MINING SAFETY AND HEALTH....................73
Emerging Areas in Respiratory Disease Prevention....................74
Emerging Areas in Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Prevention....................74
Emerging Areas in Cumulative Musculoskeletal InjuryPrevention....................75
Emerging Areas in Traumatic Injury Prevention....................75
Emerging Areas in Mine Disaster Prevention and Control....................76
Emerging Areas in Ground Failure Prevention Research....................76
Emerging Areas in Surveillance, Training, and Intervention Effectiveness Research....................77
7 SYNTHESIS OF RECOMMENDATIONS....................79
Program Planning and Strategic Goals....................79
Effective Interactions....................80
Outputs....................81
Surveillance and Monitoring....................82
Training Programs and Technology Transfer....................82
Emerging Issues for the Mining Workplace....................83
PART II-EVALUATION OF STRATEGIC RESEARCH AREAS 8 REVIEW OF RESPIRATORY DISEASE PREVENTION RESEARCH....................89
Research in Mining Respiratory Disease Reduction....................89
Strategic Goals and Objectives....................90
Review of Inputs....................91
Review of Activities....................94
Review of Research Outputs....................102
Review of Transfer Activities....................102
Review of Intermediate Outcomes and Causal Impact....................103
Review of End Outcomes....................104
Assessment of Relevance and Impact....................105
Progress in Targeting New Research....................105
9 REVIEW OF NOISE-INDUCED HEARING LOSS PREVENTION RESEARCH....................108
Strategic Goals and Objectives....................109
Review of Inputs....................111
Review of Activities....................112
Review of Research Outputs....................112
Review of Transfer Activities....................113
Review of Intermediate Outcomes and Causal Impact....................116
Review of End Outcomes....................117
Assessment of Relevance and Impact....................118
Progress in Targeting New Research....................118
10 REVIEW OF RESEARCH ON THE REDUCTION OF CUMULATIVE MUSCULOSKELETAL INJURIES....................120
Strategic Goals and Objectives....................121
Review of Inputs....................122
Review of Activities....................124
Review of Research Outputs....................125
Review of Transfer Activities....................125
Review of Intermediate Outcomes and Causal Impact....................128
Review of End Outcomes....................129
Assessment of Relevance and Impact....................129
Progress in Targeting New Research....................130
11 REVIEW OF TRAUMATIC INJURY PREVENTION RESEARCH....................131
Strategic Goals and Objectives....................131
Review of Inputs....................132
Review of Activities....................134
Review of Research Outputs....................134
Review of Transfer Activities....................135
Review of Intermediate Outcomes and Causal Impact....................135
Review of End Outcomes....................139
Assessment of Relevance and Impact....................140
Progress in Targeting New Research....................140
12 REVIEW OF MINE DISASTER PREVENTION AND CONTROL RESEARCH....................142
Strategic Goals and Objectives....................142
Review of Inputs....................146
Review of Activities....................147
Review of Research Outputs....................148
Review of Transfer Activities....................149
Review of Intermediate Outcomes and Causal Impact....................149
Review of End Outcomes....................152
Assessment of Relevance and Impact....................153
Progress in Targeting New Research....................153
13 REVIEW OF GROUND FAILURE PREVENTION RESEARCH....................156
Strategic Goals and Objectives....................156
Review of Inputs....................157
Review of Activities....................161
Review of Research Outputs and Transfer Activities....................161
Review of Intermediate Outcomes and Causal Impact....................165
Review of End Outcomes....................171
Assessment of Relevance and Impact....................171
Progress in Targeting New Research....................172
14 REVIEW OF SURVEILLANCE TRAINING, AND INTERVENTION EFFECTIVENESS RESEARCH....................173
Strategic Goals and Objectives....................173
Review of Inputs....................176
Review of Activities....................177
Review of Research Outputs....................182
Review of Transfer Activities....................183
Review of Intermediate Outcomes and Causal Impact....................184
Review of End Outcomes....................185
Review of Other Outcomes....................185
Assessment of Relevance and Impact....................186
Progress in Targeting New Research....................186
REFERENCES....................188
APPENDIXES A Framework for the Review of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health....................195
B Information Provided by the NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Research Program....................239
C NIOSH Mining Ergonomics Research Program Review Barbara Silverstein, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries....................243
D Biographical Sketches of Committee Members....................256
E Committee on Earth Resources Roster....................262

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