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Is the system of mine safety and health in the US broken?

Mining Engineering , 2011, Vol. 63, No. 7, pp. 77-83

Lauriski, D.; Yang, B.


The recent spate of catastrophic events at U.S. mines raises the question as to whether or not the mine safety and health system in the U.S. is broken. The prescriptive regulatory regime in the U.S. is not a cure-all for a broken system. Without totally dismissing the contribution of a prescriptive regulatory approach, this paper argues that safety in the U.S. mining industry would be enhanced if the nation adopted a scheme that provides a balance between specification standards and two alternatives: performance and systems-based standards. This would allow effective and flexible means to continuous health and safety performance improvement. Mine operators, regulators and politicians could then go beyond thinking that compliance alone equals strong safety by creating a proactive system that emphasizes continuous improvement. By adopting performance and systems-based standards, exemplary safety and health performers can be recognized, allowing regulators to focus their efforts on those without sound occupational safety systems and who have substandard safety performance.