The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources will lead new research projects to help improve mining safety and health.
Mining is a $100 billion industry employing 2 million people in the U.S. In Arizona, nearly 50,000 employees work in mining related businesses.
Despite marked improvement over the years, mining remains a dangerous profession in the U.S., with 36 fatalities in 2012 and 20 fatalities to date in 2013. Some mines are safer than others, due in part to differences in their safety and health programs and training effectiveness.
To aid in improving mining safety, the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources have been awarded $1.3 million in funding to conduct two research projects related to mining safety.
The funding was granted by the Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health, which supports projects across the nation that are designed to improve mine health and safety. The funding includes a $669,208 grant to identify effective risk management interventions and a $663,817 grant to improve the effectiveness of mine safety training.
“Every day, mine operators across the U.S. are challenged to ensure their employees, contractors, and vendors are highly competent with regards to safety," said Eric Lutz, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at the Zuckerman College of Public Health and chair of the Health and Safety Committee for the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration.
"These research projects will result in pragmatic tools that safety personnel and trainers can use to evaluate and improve their program effectiveness,” Lutz said.
The risk management grant will be administered by lead researchers Lutz and Jeff Burgess, MD, MPH, professor and director of the community, environment and policy division of the Zuckerman College of Public Health, and Gautam Gowrisankaran, PhD, a professor in the Eller College of Management.
The training effectiveness grant will be administered by Lutz and Mary Poulton, PhD, who directs the Lowell Institute for Minerals Resources and is head of the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering.
The training research will bring together an inter-collegiate team at the University of Arizona to work with mining industry partners to provide guidance to mine safety trainers in a manner that meets the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration requirements.
Lutz said the study will allow managers to evaluate their trainers and provide mine companies and regulatory agencies with a powerful tool to assess the quality of contractor or vendor-led training courses.
The new grants build on a long history of interdisciplinary mining safety and health research at the UA, including the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering in the College of Engineering; the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and the Eller College of Management. (Photo credit: Norma Jean Gargasz / UANews)