Goal: By 2014, reduce repetitive and cumulative musculoskeletal injuries by 30 percent based on 2003 injury rate.
The intermediate goals of the mining ergonomics program are to
Quantify job demands and physical capabilities of miners to develop improved recommendations for work design; and
Develop and field-test ergonomic interventions to reduce worker exposure to musculoskeletal risk factors.
The performance measures are to
Provide 10 improved designs and work practices by 2009; and
Reduce the repetitive and cumulative musculoskeletal injury rate by 25 percent at test mine sites by 2009.
While most traumatic onset injuries have been decreasing in the mining industry, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) data indicate that work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) due to heavy, awkward, or repetitive manual handling and vibration represent a significant proportion of illnesses and injuries in mining. Not all data sources clearly define musculoskeletal disorders. Data from MSHA and BLS (BLS, 2006a, 2006b) indicate that in the past 8 years, there has been a decrease in musculoskeletal disorders in mining by more than 30 percent, thus making the proposed goal quite achievable. Between 1999 and 2003, 4,079 back injuries with 173,000 lost or restricted work days were reported in surface mining, primarily among truck drivers, dozer operators, and front-end loaders; an additional 6,060 overexertion injuries were reported, many in the same occupations (National Safety Council, 2004). According to BLS data (BLS, 2004a) there were 2,380 lost time overexertion injuries in mining in 2004. Among all injuries reported, 25.8 percent occurred after 8 hours of work (BLS, 2004b). While these data are not broken down by injury type, it is reasonable to hypothesize a relationship between overexertion and extended work hours.
Ergonomics research and education activities can contribute enormously to identifying root causes of these disorders and to developing and testing potential solutions and disseminating results to employer and employee partners, as well as equipment manufacturers and regulatory agencies. Although federally funded mining ergonomics research has a longer history, this review is focused on the period since these activities came under NIOSH purview in 1997.
Ergonomics takes into account all the components of a work system (tech-