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SAFETY IN MINING. 100 Years of Progress. Mine Safety Legislation. Many of us have a tendency to resent what we perceive as unwarranted government interference in our lives. We may even resent laws and regulations that are designed to keep us safe.

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safety in mining


100 Years of Progress

mine safety legislation
Mine Safety Legislation
  • Many of us have a tendency to resent what we perceive as unwarranted government interference in our lives.
  • We may even resent laws and regulations that are designed to keep us safe.
  • However, before we condemn the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, lets take a look back at an unregulated mining industry.
in the beginning
In The Beginning…

As early as 1865 a

bill was introduced

to create a Federal

Mining Bureau. It

did not pass.

Little was done until

a series of disasters

occurred after the

turn of the century.

open flame lights
Open Flame Lights
  • The early miner’s light was a teapot shaped lamp that featured a rope wick encased in a long spout.
the lamp burned whale oil which was poured into the pot through an opening at the top
The lamp burned whale oil, which was poured into the “pot” through an opening at the top.

The bottom half of the light was filled with carbide, the top with water. Turning the lever permitted water to drip onto the carbide. This combination produced acetylene gas.

the gas was ignited by a flint wheel and produced an acetylene flame about 1 inch in length
The gas was ignited by a flint wheel and produced an acetylene flame about 1 inch in length.
carbide light
Carbide Light
  • Although it improved visibility in the mine, the carbide light was every bit as dangerous to use as the oil lamp.
time line 1891
Time Line - 1891
  • The first Federal mine safety statute became law in 1891.
  • Its provisions covered underground coal mine ventilation and barred mine operators from employing children under the age of 12 in underground mines.
coal was processed for market in breakers there it was sized and the impurities removed
Coal was processed for market in “Breakers”. There it was sized and the impurities removed.
breaker boys
Breaker Boys
  • The “Breaker Boys” were responsible for picking the slate from the coal.
  • They were aligned in rows across chutes of moving coal and sat hunched there for hours.
  • They worked 9 – 10 hour days under very difficult conditions.
the conditions they worked under were deplorable
The conditions they worked under were deplorable.
  • The dust and noise were beyond imagination.
  • They suffered through the heat of summer and the cold of winter.
  • The boys worked under the watchful eye of the breaker boss, whose ready stick was available to unplug chutes and administer discipline.
there were no social supports during the early 1900 s
There were no social supports during the early 1900’s.
  • There was no Social Security.
  • There was no Workers’ Compensation.
  • Miners unable to work were left to fend on their own.
  • Some found work back in the Breaker.
  • A labor contract from the early 1900’s contained the job title “Boys, Old Men & Cripples.
door boys
Door Boys
  • From all accounts the boys looked forward to their 12th birthday and the transfer it brought to a position underground.
  • They were assigned to strategic locations and were responsible for opening & closing ventilation doors.
the working conditions and job duties of the door boys were an improvement over work in the breaker
The working conditions and job duties of the door boys were an improvement over work in the Breaker.
when the door boy heard a trip approaching he would open the door and permit them to pass
When the door boy heard a “trip” approaching he would open the door and permit them to pass.
  • By the time they were 14 most boys were promoted to driver.
  • They would deliver empty ore cars to the miners and pull out the loaded ones.
When a boy could handle one mule, he was given another.
  • When he could handle two, he was given a third, and so forth until he could drive six mules.
  • The ability to handle six mules resulted in adult wages.
time line 1900 1910
Time Line: 1900 - 1910
  • Roof falls, haulage accidents, and explosions killed thousands of miners.
  • The deadliest year was 1907 when 3,242 miners perished.
monongah 1907
Monongah - 1907
  • The Monongah Mine of the Fairmont Mining Company was a state of the art operation.
  • It used electrical power, rather than animal power for haulage.
  • The 368 miners and their families lived in the town of Monongah.
  • 363 miners were killed in the Monongah explosion.
  • It was the deadliest mining accident in U.S. history.
  • The town of Monongah was instantly transformed into a community of widows, orphans and dead men.
1900 1910 mining deaths




1900 – 1910 Mining Deaths
time line 1910
Time Line - 1910
  • In 1910 Congress established the Bureau of Mines.
  • Dr. Joseph Holmes was named Director of Mines.
time line 1911 1940
Time Line 1911 - 1940
  • The role of Federal inspectors was largely limited to rescue operations.
  • To facilitate rescue efforts Dr. Holmes ordered eight specially designed rail cars.
  • The cars, supplied with first aid and mine rescue equipment, were placed at strategic locations in the mining regions.
Since all mining operations had rail access, the cars could travel to the scene of any mining disaster.
first aid and mine rescue training
First Aid and Mine Rescue Training
  • In addition to their work in disasters, the Bureau of Mines cars doubled as roving classrooms.
  • Special teams were trained in mine rescue techniques, including the use of breathing apparatus.
  • Tragically, many rescuers, including those from the Bureau of Mines, were killed in rescue attempts.
bureau of mines
Bureau of Mines
  • Despite the best efforts of Dr. Holmes and his staff, mining disasters continued to claim lives.
  • Headlines such as these were all to frequent.
  • Fire and explosion.
1911 1940 mining deaths




1911 – 1940 Mining Deaths
time line 1941
Time Line - 1941
  • Congress passed the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act a year after 257 miners die in four separate explosions.
  • Federal inspectors have the right to enter mines but no safety or health regulations are mandated.
  • The law expired after one year.
time line 1947 thru 1951
Time Line – 1947 thru 1951
  • The 1947 Centralia explosion claims 111 victims; just before Christmas, 1951, 119 die in an explosion.
  • Federal inspectors can notify mine operators of violations, but there are no enforcement provisions.
centralia 111 dead
Centralia – 111 Dead
  • State mine inspectors warned of the dry and dusty conditions 3 times in the four months preceding the explosion.
  • Rescuers were able to bring out 8 survivors, but one later died.
1941 1950 mining deaths




1941 – 1950 Mining Deaths
time line 1952
Time Line - 1952
  • Congress passes the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act.
  • Underground coal mines are to be inspected yearly. Surface mines and operations with less than 15 employees are exempted.
  • Federal inspectors have authority to issue withdrawal orders and notices of violations.
1951 1965 mining deaths




1951 – 1965 Mining Deaths
time line 1966
Time Line - 1966
  • The 1952 Act is amended. Congress passes the Federal Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety Act.
  • Coverage is extended to small underground coal mines.
  • The law expands the scope of education and training programs.
time line 1969
Time Line - 1969
  • The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 took effect a year after the explosion at Farmington killed 78 miners.
  • The law included a training grant program.
time line 1972 1976
Time Line – 1972 - 1976
  • Ninety –one miners die in a fire in 1972 at the Sunshine Mine at Kellogg, Idaho.
  • In 1976, a pair of explosions at the Scotia Mine in Kentucky kill 26 people.
scotia 26 killed
Scotia – 26 Killed
  • Rescue teams proceed cautiously.
  • The first rescue attempt resulted in the deaths of 3 federal inspectors and 8 rescue team members.
1966 1976 mining deaths




1966 – 1976 Mining Deaths
time line 1977
Time Line - 1977
  • The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 placed coal and metal/nonmetal mines under a single piece of legislation.
  • Training of miners is mandatory under the Act.
findings and purpose
Findings and Purpose
  • Congress declares that –
  • The first priority and concern of all in the coal or other mining industry must be the health and safety of its most precious resource – the miner;
1977 1999 mining deaths




1977 – 1999 Mining Deaths
title 30 cfr
Title 30 CFR
  • The Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 gave rise to a series of Federal regulations known as Title 30, Code of Federal Regulations.
1900 1999 mining deaths




1900 – 1999 Mining Deaths
mining fatalities
Mining Fatalities

During the 20th Century the number of mining fatalities totaled: