Majority of mining injuries, illnesses in Illinois not reported to MSHA: study

Nearly two-thirds of the injuries and illnesses that occurred among Illinois miners from 2001 to 2013 were not reported to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, a recent study shows.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago cross-referenced MSHA Part 50 reports of injuries and illnesses to corresponding cases with the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission. The WCC database showed 5,653 cases of mining injuries and illness in the 13-year period, but researchers found only 1,923 corresponding reports in the Part 50 program – meaning 66 percent were considered unreported.

Mine operators are required to report on-the-job incidents, injuries and illnesses to MSHA under the Part 50 program.

The researchers found that “chronic injuries and illnesses were less likely to be reported to the Part 50 program than acute events, like accidents,” according to a March 9 UIC press release. In addition, the lowest rates of reporting were found among smaller mining operations.

“Employees may not report their occupational injuries or illnesses to their employer or file a workers’ compensation claim out of fear of losing their job or because they are unfamiliar with the system,” Kirsten Almberg, study co-author and UIC research assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, said in the release. “Programs that educate both mining operators and employees about the Part 50 program and workers’ compensation, and policies designed to protect reporting workers from being punished or even fired, would help improve reporting rates, but, more importantly, improve safety for those working in mines.”

Illinois’ coal mining industry employed 4,171 workers as of 2015, according to MSHA.

The study, funded by the Department of Labor, was published March 9 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

This article was first published by Safety+Health magazine.

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