Research would be pursued intra- and extramurally by government agencies and by industry, academia, equipment manufacturers, and other parties. Technology transfer from other industries would be an important component of effective research and development. Designing mining systems of exceptional safety and reliability, developing a knowledgeable workforce well versed in safe practices and procedures, and monitoring mines through a system of enlightened laws and regulations are the “three essential E’s” (engineering, education, and enforcement) of a safe mining system.
The committee classified elements of the ideal mining program into surveillance, health effects research, intervention research, technology transfer, and other transfer activities. Health services or other research dealing with access to occupational health care, while important, is not a major part of this mining research program. The program mission would be accomplished by setting realistic, stepwise strategic goals as milestones toward achieving its mission.
Table 3-1 defines the five components of the ideal mining program and lists the research elements identified as necessary to fulfill its mission. The ideal program would include a large component of technology transfer and intervention effectiveness research to inform itself of the most effective ways of diffusing its research outputs to the mining industry and increasing stakeholder acceptance. To be comprehensive, the ideal mining research program must transfer its outputs to stakeholders in the most effective manner. Without an effective technology transfer program, the research may not contribute to the reduction of hazard exposures, injuries, and illnesses.
Worker health continues to be a major issue in mining. An ideal disease prevention program includes identification of the cause of disease, exposure monitoring, exposure control technology development and implementation, and surveillance of disease progression, as well as intervention effectiveness research. Mining-related illness and disease are caused or aggravated by exposure to chemical or physical hazards, the most serious of which are chronic. Long exposure periods are required to contract the diseases, and equally long periods are necessary for surveillance and control. The committee includes respiratory disease (coal worker’s pneumoconiosis [CWP], silicosis, chronic obstructive lung disease, and lung cancer), noise-induced hearing loss, and musculoskeletal disorders associated with repetitive motion, awkward postures, and other physical stressors among the mining-related illness and disease requiring attention.
To prioritize the goals of the ideal health program, the committee considered the prevalence of various mining health issues in different mining settings.