The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has released preliminary data for calendar year 2014 and updated its Mine Safety and Health at a Glance web page. The charts include information on inspections, violations, number of mines and miners, and fatality and injury rates for coal, metal and nonmetal, and all mining.

The data show that, while the 2014 overall operator-reported injury rate improved from the prior year to an historic low, the number of mining deaths and fatality rates increased, driven by a high number of mining deaths in the metal and nonmetal sector.

In 2014, there were 44 mining deaths — an increase of two from the previous year. Of those deaths, 16 occurred at coal mines and 28 at metal and nonmetal mines and facilities. Recently, MSHA’s Fatality Review Committee concluded that two metal and nonmetal mining deaths in 2014 previously not charged to the mining industry are chargeable, and they have been added to the fatality totals.

The 16 coal mining deaths in 2014 marked the lowest number ever recorded in a year and were four fewer than in 2013. The preliminary 2014 fatal injury rate was lower than in 2013, at .0150 fatal injuries per 200,000 hours worked and the second lowest fatal rate recorded in mining history. The overall operator-reported injury rate of 3.10 per 200,000 hours was a new record low, slightly below the 2013 rate of 3.11.

For metal and non-metal mining, the fatal injury rate in 2014 increased to .0137 per 200,000 hours worked, up from 2013’s rate of .0108. The deaths that occurred last year mark the continuation of a trend that began in the fall of 2013. The 2014 overall operator-reported injury rate of 2.08 per 200,000 hours worked is a record low, down from the 2013 level of 2.13.

For all mining, the preliminary 2014 fatal injury rate was .0142 per 200,000 hours worked, an increase from the 2013 rate of .0132. The overall operator-reported injury rate of 2.43 per 200,000 hours was a record low.

Eleven fatalities in 2014 involved mine contractors, compared to four contractor deaths the previous year, with the highest increase in the metal and nonmetal sector.

Overall, 121,646 citations and orders were issued in 2014, a slight increase compared to 118,279 in 2013. The increase is related to enhanced enforcement efforts aimed at addressing the increase in fatalities in the metal and nonmetal sector where citations and orders increased in 2014 by 7 percent.

MSHA has implemented a number of actions to improve compliance, including special impact inspections targeting troubled mines, the revised Pattern of Violations enforcement program to rein in chronic violators, the Rules to Live By initiative designed to prevent the most common types of mining deaths, new examination rules requiring underground coal mine operators to find and fix hazards during mine examinations, and improved guidance on equipment guarding and fall protection at metal and nonmetal mines. As a result, over the past five years (2010-2014), citations and orders have declined due to improved mine industry compliance.