Monday, January 09, 2006

Missing headline alert - mine safety 
All units, all units ... be on the lookout for a missing headline - "Number of mine injuries fall 25 percent over last four year" - reported missing from today's newspapers.

The headline was last seen being stripped from a news article in the San Francisco Chronicle and has not been seen since.

The data - somehow deemed irrelevant from a Knight Ridder story that considers it more important to count the number of yet uncollected fines than actually bother to look at mine safety statistics in an article about mine safety, was alluded to only briefly, buried deep within the news article. Knight Ridder failed to note the statistics or the trend lines during the Bush administration. Knight Ridder also failed to compare the mine safety statistics during the previous Clinton Administration.

The N in the number of mining fatalities is too small to be reliable - particularly if you confine the numbers reported to the coal mining industry. A couple of unlucky incidents could throw the numbers way off kilter. Similarly, a couple of lucky breaks could make mine safety statistics look better than industry leaders deserve.

So in assessing the safety record of the mining industry through time, the number to look at isn't the number of fatalities, but the number of injuries. If the fatality statistic is significant, it should have a high correlation with the number of injuries.

If you're going to hold the President responsible for mine safety practices and regulation, then the responsible thing to do is to look at the most important numbers - the number of injuries sustained through time.

Here's what we find:

Number of injuries in combined coal/metal/nonmetal mining industries, nationwide

1931: 94,221 (disabling injuries only)
1992: 25,444 (all injuries)

2000: 16,209
2001: 14,748
2002: 13,413
2003: 12,050
2004: 12,105
2005: Not yet available.

Source: National Mining Association.

Under the Bush Administration, then, not only has the number of total mining fatalities from 85 in 2000 down to 57 in 2005, but has also cut the number of total mining injuries by 25 percent.

It took me about 20 seconds to find that information.

And so what's the headline from the slimeballs at Knight-Ridder and the San Francisco Chronicle?

"Enforcement of Mine Safety Seen Slipping Under Bush."


Here's a newsflash for Knight-Ridder: Which is a more effective use of limited regulatory staff? Run a mini collections agency to collect trivial fines? Or actually follow up with mining officials to monitor corrections? Which is going to be more effective at saving lives?

Splash, out


Ran into this entry another blog that had some of the same information, but compares fatalities to the number of miners working at the time.
Just for a little perspective, I attended the World Health & Safety Congress in Orlando last fall. Among other speakers, I met the Deputy Minister for Mining from the Peoples Republic of China. One ot the interesting facts he tossed out (very casually by the way) was that in China in 2006, the focus for mine safety was on reducing the rate of accidents that cause more than 10 fatalities by 25%.

Read it carefully - they don't want to eliminate fatalities (they recognize that they are years away from reaching that point) but reduce the accidents that kill 10 or more at a time by 25%. Tragic as the recent incident was, mining safety has come an enormous way, particularly in the last decade. US mining safety practices remain among the best in the world, but not without room for improvement.
Jason, in order to further your "discussion" with Mark Anderson over at PressThink, you might point to a new column by John Merline over at TCS Daily (via instapundit)
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