Coal Mining

“Black stones...which burn like logs”
Marco Polo

Marco Polo was one of the first Europeans to see and describe coal being used in China during his Asian travels.  Since Polo’s travels in the 13th century, this burning coal log has kept countless people warm during cold, frigid months.   However, when it pertains to actual coal mines, there is a dark side and it goes beyond the actual darkness found inside underground mines.  According to the BLS, a coal miner is twice as likely to be injured when compared to the private industry.  When you look specifically at underground mining, a worker is four times as likely to be hurt.

Hot working conditions, limited visibility, falling roofs, rock bursts, vehicle collisions, explosions from methane gas, dust and numerous other hazards are serious concerns for a coal miner.

In addition, there is always the possibility of being trapped, like the 33 Chile miners who were trapped for 69 days back in 2010.  The good news is that safety injuries have drastically come down over the past 40 years.  Since 2007 alone, the rate of injuries has dropped from 4.3 to 2.6 for every 100 employees.

MCR Safety is doing our part by constantly innovating safety gear that matches the needs of coal miners. Max 6 Anti-Fog technology is a new innovation the coal industry has embraced, due to its 6X greater AF dissipation properties.  With flying particles all around, there is great risk for miners taking eyewear off due to fogging.  With the Max 6 PD1210PF D4 dust rated goggle, coal miners no longer need to remove their safety gear!  Check out our Max 6 page for more on this technology.

We cover all the coal mining hazards more in depth below.  First though, lets cover a little more of the coal industry.


Greek philosopher Aristotle once referred to coal as a charcoal like rock. Well, he was not far from the truth. Coal is the fuel powering our modern day electrical power plants. It produces the needed steam to drive the massive turbines responsible for creating electricity. Ever since the creation of the steam engine and the Industrial Revolution, coal has served as the fundamental building block for our modern world.

Mix of Electricity Generation


Other ways coal is utilized across other industries:

  • Steel Production
    - Coal is used for producing coke, a pure carbon substance used in making steel used in making high quality steel. Without coal, many of our modern steel buildings would not exist.
  • Cement Production
    - Producing cement requires a large amount of energy. Coal plays an important part in heating Kilns to 2,600 2642 Fahrenheit (°F)
  • Other Areas
    - Paper manufacturers, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

Mining Methods

The two mining methods used in coal extraction are surface “Open Pit” mining and Underground mining.  Simply put, surface mining is peeling back the earth and collecting coal near the surface.  Whereas, underground mining requires tunneling and building shafts.  The mining method chosen by companies depends on the coal deposit being extracted.  The deeper the mine goes, the more hazards workers face.

The continuous mining method, an innovation from the late 19th and 20th century, eliminates the drilling and blasting operations found in conventional mining.  This method uses a machine called a continuous miner. It continually extracts the coal, while loading onto a conveyor system.   

Coal Production Regions


Occupations

Because of automated techniques, today’s miner has definitely changed with the times.   Here is a look at 21st Century occupations found in the coal mining industry:

Click an occupation to expand and learn more.

  • Conveyor Operators 

    Tend conveyors or conveyor systems that move materials or products to and from stockpiles, processing stations, departments, or vehicles. There are roughly around 600 of these workers found in Coal Mining.  You will find these workers loading materials, clearing jams, and removing damaged materials.  Common Job titles for this position are Chipper Operator, Flumer, Process Operator and Strapper Operator.

    Employment of Conveyor Operators and Tenders by State

  • Construction Laborers and Extraction Occupations 

    Perform tasks involving physical labor at construction sites.  Mining examples include earth drillers, blasters and explosives workers, derrick operators, and mining machine operators.  There are roughly around 22,000 of these workers found in Coal Mining.  You will find these workers using hand tools, repairing drilling equipment, and transporting materials.  Common Job titles for this position are Coal Miner, Mining Technician, Underground Miner, Helper, Laborer, Post Framer, and Construction Worker.

  • Continuous Mining Machine Operators 

    Operate mining machines that rip coal, metal and nonmetal ores, rock, stone, or sand from the mine face and load it onto conveyors or into shuttle cars.  There are roughly around 3,500 of these workers found in Coal Mining.  You will find these workers assisting in construction activities, checking the roof stability and cleaning equipment.  Common Job titles for this position are Bore Mine Operator, Miner Operator, and Continuous Miners.

  • Dredge, Excavating, and Loading Machine Operators 

    Operate dredge to remove sand, gravel, or other materials in order to excavate and maintain navigable channels in waterways. There are roughly 4,000 of the workers found in Coal Mining.  You will find this worker operating equipment, tools and gauges.   Common Job titles for this position are Dredge Operator and Dredger.

  • Electricians 

    Install, maintain, and repair electrical wiring, equipment, and fixtures.  Around 2,200  of this occupation found in Coal Mining.  You will find these workers connecting wires to breakers and transformers, making dielectric and FR safety gear important.  Common Job titles for this position are Industrial Electrician, Journeyman Electrician and Wireman, and Maintenance Electrician.

  • Excavating and Loading Machine and Dragline Operators 

    Operate machinery equipped with scoops, shovels, or buckets, to excavate and load loose materials.  There are around 3,000 of these workers in the Coal Mining industry.  You will find these workers breaking rock and operating power shovels.  Common job titles for this occupation are Pit Operator, Loader Operator, and Dragline Oiler.

  • Extraction Workers 

    Help craft workers by supplying equipment, cleaning areas, and repair drilling equipment.  Extraction craft workers are earth drillers, blasters and explosives workers, derrick operators, and mining machine operators.  There are around 10,000 of these workers.  Common Job titles for this position are Blasting Helper, Miner Helper, and Driller Helper.

  • Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians and Mechanics 

    Repair overhaul mobile mechanical, hydraulic, and pneumatic equipment.  Examples of this equipment includes cranes, bulldozers, graders, and conveyors.  There are around 2,800 of these workers found in Coal Mining. You will find these working replacing worn parts and reassembling heaving equipment with tools.    Common Job titles for this position are Heavy Equipment Technician, Field Mechanic, and Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanic.

  • Industrial Machinery Mechanics 

    Worker activities include repairing, installing, and adjusting industrial machinery.  Around 1,000 of this occupation works in Coal Mining.  You will find these workers cutting and welding metal to repair broken metal parts.  Job titles for this position are Fixer, Industrial and Master Mechanic.

  • Loading Machine Operators, Underground Mining 

    Operate underground loading machine to load coal, ore, or rock into shuttle / mine car or onto conveyors.  There are around 1,000 of these workers are found in Coal Mining.  You will find these prying off loose material from roofs, cleaning hoppers, and cleaning spillage.  Common Job titles for this position are Miner, Production Miner, Shuttle Car Operator, and Under Ground Miner.

  • Metal and plastic workers 

    Operate machines designed to cut, shape and form metal.  There are roughly 600 employees found for this occupation.  You will find this worker fabricating metal products, lifting heavy material and working with their hands.  Common job titles for this position are sheet metal worker and welder. Be sure to check out our Metal Fabrication industry educational page.    

  • Maintenance and Repair Workers, General 

    Keep machines, mechanical equipment, or the structure of an establishment in repair.  There are around 8,500 of this occupation working in Coal Mining.  You will find these workers pipe fitting, repairing equipment, and repairing buildings.  Job titles for this position are Maintenance Worker, Maintenance Mechanic, and Facilities Manager.

  • Material Moving Workers 

    Help move steel and other materials.  Around 10,000 of these workers help move steel and other material across in Mining.  That is a large number of hands needing protected.  You will find these workers operating conveyors, transporting material, and operating machines.  Common job titles are laborer and operator.

  • Mine Cutting and Channeling 

    Operate machinery such as longwall shears, plows, and cutting machines to cut or channel along the face or seams of coal mines, stone quarries, or other mining surfaces to facilitate blasting, separating, or removing minerals or materials from mines.  There are roughly around 1,700 of these workers found in Coal Mining.  You will find these workers positioning roof supports, preventing cave-ins and cutting entries between rooms.  Common Job titles for this position are Bore Miner Operator, Underground Miner and Shear Operator.

  • Mine Shuttle Car Operators 

    Operate diesel or electric-powered shuttle cars in underground mines to transport materials from working face to mine cars or conveyors. There are roughly around 1,300 of these workers found in Coal Mining.  You will find these workers attaching drill bits and drill rods..  Common Job titles for this position are Coal Haul Operator and Shuttle Car Operator.

  • Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanic 

    Repair, or overhaul mobile equipment, such as cranes, bulldozers, graders, and conveyors, used in construction, logging, and surface mining.  There are roughly around 2,800 of these workers found in Coal Mining.  You will find these workers replacing worn parts and reassembling equipment using hand tools. Common Job titles for this position are Heavy Equipment Technician, Field Mechanic, and Equipment Mechanic.

  • Roof Bolters, Mining 

    Operate machinery to install roof support bolts in underground mine.  There are around 2,700 of this occupation working in coalmines, essentially the majority of this entire occupation.  You will find these workers pulling down loose rock, drilling holes and positioning machines. Job titles for this position are Bolt Man, Bolter, and Underground Miner.

  • Welding, Soldering and Brazing Machine Operators 

    Operate welding, soldering or brazing machines that weld, braze, or heat treat metal products.  The mining industry employs around 620  of these workers in coal mining. You will find these workers adding material to work pieces, joining metal components, and annealing finished work pieces. Common Job titles for this position are Fabricator, Mig Welder, Spot Welder, Fitter-Welder, and Braze Operators.

  • Welding Cutters and Fitters 

    Use hand-welding, flame-cutting, hand soldering, and brazing equipment to weld/join metal components, fill holes, indentations, or seams of fabricated metal products.  There are around 600 of these workers employed in coal mining.  You will find these workers welding components in flat, vertical or overhead positions.  Common Job titles for this position are Maintenance Welder, Mig Welder, and Welder/Fabricator.


Even though the work has changed over the years, safety hazards and injuries still occur. The chart to the right shows the most common nonfatal injuries in the coal industry.

As mentioned above, the hazards coal miners face are endless.  A safe working environment ensures workers return home unharmed, while also creating a productive and profitable mining operation. We’ve got you covered with gloves, glasses, and garments needed in today’s coal mine.  After all, keeping people protected is what we do.  Let MCR Safety help protect you the next time you enter a mine! 

Nonfatal lost-time injuries

Here is a look at the overall hazards these workers face:

Common Coal Mining Hazards

Find the right MCR Safety product that protects you against these common hazards.

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