Underground Hazards & Safety in Mining
An educational collaboration between the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (RMCOEH) and the Department of Mining Engineering at the University of Utah will bring new perspectives to tackle tough problems in mining safety.
Mining technology in the United States has advanced immeasurably from minecarts and “jack-legs” (very large jackhammers), but working in or around mines still presents unique and serious hazards, says W. Pratt Rogers, PhD, associate professor in mining engineering. He describes the dangers of mining labor in terms of “high-energy zones”: regions where large and powerful machinery or heavy objects have the potential to exert massive amounts of force. “If you make one snap decision wrong in a high-energy zone, you can lose a leg, or your life,” he says. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but there are still fatalities. There are still massive injuries.”
DISRUPTING TUNNEL VISION
Addressing these hazards will take the best minds from across a wide variety of disciplines. One of the biggest strengths of the program, Rogers says, is that it will tap into that variety. Classes in the Mining Safety program will be taught by faculty members from the Department of Mining Engineering. But unlike standard engineering courses, these will be geared toward a broad spectrum of students within RMCOEH, with backgrounds ranging from industrial hygiene and emergency management to psychology and public health.
Charles Kocsis, PhD, chair of the Department of Mining Engineering and director of the Center for Mining Safety and Health Excellence, says that the collaboration will be a new development for the department. “We’re very excited, because it’s the first time that mining engineering steps out of the box.” The program is expected to begin accepting students in March 2024.