Page images
PDF
EPUB

FATAL-ACCIDENT RATES IN THE COAL MINES OF NORTH AMERICA, BY GEO

GRAPHICAL SECTIONS, 1889 TO 1908.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The foregoing table requires no extended comment. It brings out the startling fact that in some of the coal fields of North America the fatality rate due to mining casualties is almost as high as the general death rate from all causes among males of corresponding age at work under normal conditions of industry. The death rate of occupied males insured with workmen's benefit insurance institutions, as reported in the Twenty-third Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor for 1908, was only 6.7 per 1,000.(") The death rate of workers insured with the Leipzig (Germany) Local Sick Fund, including all classes of labor of both sexes, was 8.2 per 1,000. (*) The United States census data for 1900() show that the average mortality rate for all occupied males aged 15 to 64 was only 10.6 per 1,000, while for miners and quarrymen the death rate was 8.05 per 1,000; but this latter rate is chiefly for the miners in the eastern coal fields and for a year when the fatality rate was 3.25 per 1,000 against 4.15 in 1907 and 3.82 in 1908. A fatality rate of from 6 to 7 per 1,000 is extremely high, so high, indeed, that it challenges public attention as one of the most extraordinary evidences of life waste in a particua Twenty-third Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor, 1909, p. 424.

Krankheits- und Sterblichkeitsverhältnisse in der Ortskrankenkasse für Leip. zig und Umgegend.

© Report on Vital Statistics, Pt. I, Twelfth Census of the l’nited States, 1900. lar branch of industry. But it may be laid down as a fundamental principle of industrial hygiene that all fatality rates above 1.5 per 1,000 must be considered excessive, since under normal conditions of industry the fatal accident rate, including casualties of all kinds, rarely exceeds 1 per 1,000.() Averages for a period of years are more conclusive for the purpose of determining the accident risk than rates for single years, but it is decidedly significant that in some years the rate in some of the coal fields of North America should have reached 23.45 and 25.17 per 1,000.

How far these variations in coal-mining fatality rates are the result of geological or other inherent factors and conditions can not be discussed here.(0) No doubt some such relation exists, and particularly in the case of very gaseous or dusty mines, in which the coal dust itself is the cause of disastrous explosions, as, for illustration, in the State of West Virginia, but a discussion of these underlying causes falls more properly within the scope of applied geology, industrial chemistry, and mining engineering. Nor does it seem necessary for the present purpose to discuss at length the returns in detail for the different States, since the fluctuations from year to year would be required to be explained by a full discussion of individual accident occurrences of more than ordinary significance. Such a discussion would be a most interesting and valuable contribution to our knowledge, but to enlarge upon this class of facts would preclude more adequate consideration of the more determining elements of mining experience throughout the country as a whole. For an intelligent annual discussion of fatal accidents in American coal mines the most useful would be a full descriptive account of each death from accident reported, with a full explanation of all the circumstances, including maps and diagrams of the working place, which may have a bearing upon the underlying causes or conditions responsible for its occurrence. The material now available is especially defective on account of the diversity in the official reports and the indifference on the part of many mine inspectors to some of the most significant labor factors, such as mining experience, age, nativity, or race, etc.

a Mortality Statistics, 1908, C. S. Census, p. 75.

• The geologic formation of the various coal fields of the United States is fully discussed in a number of descriptive geologic folios published by the United States Geological Survey. Typical folios are for the Brownsville-Connellsville area of Pennsylvania (No. 94), the Raleigh area of West Virginia (No. 77), and the Atoka area of the Indian Territory [Oklahoma] (No. 79). Part II of the annual “ Contributions to Economic Geology," issued by the same authority, contains a large amount of information useful to the student of mine accidents in their relation to the geology of particular coal fields.

In brief, however, the result of the present inquiry, with reference to several States, may be summarized as follows:

TI

FATAL-ACCIDENT RATES IN COAL MINES OF NORTH AMERICA, BY STATES

AND PROVINCES, FOR THE PERIOD 1889 TO 1908.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

This table is extremely suggestive. The fluctuations in rates of accident frequency range from an average of 1.60 for western Kentucky to 11.67 for Utah. A careful examination of Table XXIV of the appendix brings out the fact that some of the extremely high rates are primarily due to accidents of exceptional seriousness, but, on the whole, it may be said that the States with low averages have generally had a favorable experience from year to year, while the States with high averages have frequently had a disastrous experience. The States may be grouped into two divisions—first, all those having an average rate of less than 3 per 1,000 per annum, and, second, those which experienced a rate of 3 or more per annum, and it will be found on careful examination of the detailed tables that only occasionally have the rates in the former exceeded 3 per 1,000 in any one year, while the rates in the 10 States with an average above 3 per 1,000 have rarely gone below this rate, which, by every standard of mining experience throughout the world, must be considered extremely high. Or, to be specific, out of 219 individual years contained in the collective mine experience of States with an average of less than 3 per 1,000, the rate for individual years exceeded this average in 24 years, and the excess occurred chiefly in those States which include the more dangerous mining areas—that is, Pennsylvania (bituminous), Nova Scotia, and Michigan. In the case of the States with an average rate of 3 or more per 1,000 it is shown that there were only 46 individual instances when the rate was less than 3 per 1,000, out of a total of 174 years of coal-mining activity.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

THE CAUSES OF FATAL ACCIDENTS.

The causes of fatal accidents in coal mining are almost as varied as the circumstances which give rise to them. Many fatal accidents arise, without doubt, from negligence, indifference, or extraneous accidental circumstances, not inherent in the nature of coal mining as such. The large majority of accidents, however, are properly to be called such, in the general acceptance of the term, and while the underlying cause may (as is often the case) be the so-called carelessness of the miners or other mine employees, it is a great injustice to bring a charge of willful indifference to life and safety of limb against those working under the most trying conditions which can possibly surround the industrial activity of mankind. Crude as the classification of causes, or so-called causes, of coal mining accidents is, the facts in the mass indicate, at least with approximate accuracy, the probable underlying conditions responsible for the occurrence of calamities of this kind. Every death of a mine worker represents a most serious economic and social loss to the community, measured financially by the dependence of survivors, widows, orphans, and other relatives, on the one hand, and the destruction of slowly acquired labor efficiency on the other. In full recognition of the seriousness of the whole labor problem in coal mining, as implied by the risk of the occupation, it is difficult to understand how lightly some mine inspectors regard their duty and how superficially in some States the whole subject is considered from the standpoint of public interest and public policy.

No full account is rendered of the fatal accidents and their occurrence in many of the States. No full inquiry is made into all the surroundings and antecedent causation of many of the ordinary everyday casualties, which end in death, or serious injury often worse than death. It has not been possible, after a most painstaking effort extending over many years, to secure a full account of all the fatal accidents which have ocurred in the different mining States. Some mining States, like California, have not even a mining bureau charged with the duty of collecting accident statistics, and in others the publication of the required statistics is often delayed so long that when finally made available the best opportunity for their practical use has passed. The analysis of fatal accidents, according to causes, is, therefore, limited to a 10-year period for all the States from which the information could be obtained, but for some the data are not for an uninterrupted 10-year period, since the data could not be secured either by correspondence or otherwise. For the present purpose this defect is not a serious obstacle to the attainment of a reasonable degree of statistical accuracy and completeness, and in the aggregate the analysis by causes includes 18,316 deaths

[ocr errors][merged small]

cut of the 29,293 deaths included in the 20-year table for the different coal-producing States, Territories, and Provinces of North America.

A discussion of the causes of coal-mining fatalities proceeds, as a rule, upon the basis of the percentage distribution of the deaths due to casualties of different kinds. Obviously, such a method is open to serious criticism, since the presence, or absence, of special causes may result in an abnormal distribution of casualties from specified causes without inherent evidence that such casualties from particular causes are really of rare or common occurrence. However, this method has the advantage of simplicity, and when used in connection with the known fatality rate from all causes it is often sufficiently accurate for the end in view. For, it may be held that it is, after all, of the greatest practical importance to determine the most common cause of accident occurrence, and this fact, of course,

is more clearly brought out by the percentage distribution of casualties by causes than by the ratio from specified causes to coal production, or upon the basis of the number of men exposed to risk of death one year. Both methods have their value, though for different purposes, in inquiries of this kind and they will both be made use of in the present effort to determine the approximate fatal accident risk in coal mining in North America.

The 18,346 fatal accidents for which the information is available were distributed, by principal causes, as follows:

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

PER CENT OF FATAL ACCIDENTS IN COAL MINES OF NORTH AMERICA DUE TO

EACH CAUSE DURING A 10-YEAR PERIOD.

Fatal accidents.

of oft thie of

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Fall of coal..
Fall of roof, slate, etc.
Falling into shaíts.
Falling into slopes, manways, etc.
Mine cars.
Outside cars.
Motors.
Explosions:

Dust or gas.
Powder or dynamite.
Blast.

Other, not specified
Mining machinery.
Mules..
Asphyxiation.
Electrocution.
Miscellaneous.

[blocks in formation]

Total

18,346

100.0

It must be admitted that an analysis of this kind is not free from error in matters of detail. The method of classification by causes differs in the various coal-mining States and often in the several

« PreviousContinue »