Injuries sustained working in mines and quarries

The glory days of British industry have been and gone and whereas coal mining was once a booming industry, there are now just 100 mines employing a mere 6,000 people. Most of the health and safety laws regarding mining were made over half a century ago when mining was a completely different industry using far more basic equipment. Indeed, whilst these laws are supplemented by more recent legislation, they are in need of updating.

Coal mining is not seen as an attractive option to young workers and as a result, the workforce is getting older and more and more qualified and experienced engineers, managers and supervisors for example are leaving and taking their knowledge of health and safety with them. The Health and Safety Executive which releases figures for the number of accidents and injuries sustained whilst working in mines every year has blamed the sliding quality of safety management systems for high accident rates. The narrow environmental, financial and infrastructural focus of today’s inspection process was also criticised.

The troubling situation in the coal mining industry is worsened by the fact that there is very little specific training in this area available in schools or colleges anymore. It has therefore become extremely difficult to recruit workers with the knowledge and qualifications required to work in the nation’s mines. The result is a tendency to recruit foreign workers who often cannot speak English which poses certain health and safety risks due to communication problems.

Whilst coal mining is seemingly moving backwards, metal and mineral mining and quarrying have been able to attract workers and train them well. Oddly however, these industries actually have a higher percentage of fatal and serious accidents than coal mining with 3,000 injuries and 24 deaths in the last 13 years.

Mining and quarrying is now the most dangerous industry for workers having surpassed construction and agriculture. Indeed, it is clear that safety management in these areas needs to improve markedly in order to keep workers safe.

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