How A CDC Program Is Changing Behavior To Reduce Mine Worker Injuries

Jobs in the mining industry have historically been ranked among the most dangerous occupations. According to the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, as many as 6,000 miners are injured each year at 13,000 mines across the country. Many more are exposed to hazards that can lead to lung disease, hearing loss, and other health conditions.

To improve the safety and health of the country’s 300,000 miners, MSHA has put in place regulations reflecting best practices and new technologies. But for a number of reasons, workers can be reluctant to adopt these measures.

Several years ago, behavioral scientists at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pittsburgh Mining Research Division—part of CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a public health agency, not a regulatory agency—set out to learn why miners weren’t always adopting the best health and safety practices. The team, led by Dr. Emily Haas, applied behavioral science methods and theories to engage mining companies, managers, and employees to create a safety culture that would reduce health and safety risks in mines. The five-year project is currently in its fifth year.