The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) begins with Congress' declaration that "the first priority and concern … must be the health and safety of its most precious resource - the miner." Therefore, chief among the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) goals is the reduction of fatal and nonfatal injuries and a continuing decline in injury incidence and severity rates. Two other significant goals are providing more and better compliance assistance to mine operators, and improving the consistency of mine inspections. Despite what some may think, the purpose of mine inspections is not to produce citations and orders, although when inspectors see violations of the Mine Act or its standards, they are required by law to issue citations. Rather, inspections are a way to verify compliance and to assure miners enjoy safe working conditions and mploy safe work procedures. The bottom line is not the number of citations issued, but safer mines and fewer and less severe injuries and illnesses.
On June 24, 2004, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) signed a cooperative Alliance to improve safety and health conditions at mines throughout the United States. MSHA and ASSE pledged to "use their collaborative efforts and expertise to protect miners, promote best practices and encourage mine operators to develop and utilize safety and health management programs." The two organizations further pledged to develop and disseminate information on mine safety and health at conferences and hrough print and electronic media.
Throughout 2004, MSHA was hard at work updating its Guide to Equipment Guarding handbook and creating a new and comprehensive equipment guarding training resource. The intention was to assist mine operators, miners, equipment manufacturers and mine inspectors improve guarding, reduce risk, injury incidence and severity, regulatory compliance and mine inspection consistency. This new resource was MSHA's Equipment Guarding DVD. The DVD itself, and discussion of it in this forum, also contributes to the major precepts of the Alliance.
The Equipment Guarding DVD project was months in the planning, over a year in production and represents a cooperative effort by all segments of the mining industry. Over two dozen mining operations, representing a cross section of the industry, provided their sites for filming, and allowed their miners, safety and health committee members, safety professionals and mine officials to participate in action shots and insightful taped interviews. Mining industry associations facilitated access to critical and unique locations. Equipment manufacturers supplied technical information and hard-to-get photographs of specialized equipment and their guards, and a few professional safety consultants graciously donated their expertise in the cause of safety. Without help and a universal effort, the quality of the DVD would have been drastically compromised.