Mine Safety

Historian Thomas Andrews writes in in his award winning book, Killing for Coal, that between 1884 and 1912, Colorado miners averaged 6.81 fatalities per thousand workers employed, more than twice the national average.  By the mid-1910s, the numbers skyrocketed to more than 10 deaths per thousand workers. As one of the largest mine operators in the Rocky Mountain region, mine safety continued to be a growing concern for CF&I, and produced a slew of advertisements, hands on training sessions and safety campaigns to encourage workers to maintain a safe working environment, not only for the benefit of themselves, but for their coworkers.

Safety posters and campaigns were printed in company distributed publications to remind workers to be safe while on the jobsite, 1925.
Early 20th century mining work could involve a host of dangers from inhaling  toxic particulates floating in the air, unstable geology, groundwater that might flood mine workings at any time, and working with unpredictable explosive materials leading to serious injury or even death.
Colorado Fuel and Iron purchased the Mine Rescue Car No. 1 in 1923 and equipped it with mine rescue equipment available for quick assistance in the event of a mining emergency. When not in use, this car served as a mobile classroom with a team of instructors who trained miners how to prevent minor accidents, how to respond quickly to major disasters and how to use rescue and first aid equipment. The car was used as a mine rescue training vehicle until 1941 when improved road conditions and faster ambulances were available. The car was then used as the safety and scrap yard office inside the mill yard until the early 1990s.

Instructional safety team pose in front of the Mine Rescue Car Number One, 1925
 Accident report documenting the accident that Alex Prettol sustained at the Morley Mine, 1940.
In the 1940s and 1950s, accident reports and “fatalgrams” were published by the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, and distributed by CF&I administration to their workers. These one page publications gave a written explanation of an accident that recently occurred, and an illustration showing the crucial moment during which the miner was injured. Sometimes, recommendations for avoiding that type of accident in the future, and annual industry-wide death statistics with underground, surface, and mill distinctions were noted.


The Safety Team of the Berwind Mine under the guidance of Dr. Frank Yale, receive instruction of how to safely carry a man on a stretcher, ca. 1920

The dangers associated with mine work did not stop underground. Above ground at the coal washeries, tipples, and coke ovens, common accidents included explosions due to mishandling or incorrect storage, burns, falls from the tipple, and electric shock. Many men also lost their lives after being run over by locomotives and mine cars. In collaboration with the Bureau of Mines, CF&I provided regular safety training, investigated mine practices and accidents, and made recommendations to the bureau that could be made into laws. With the passage of the 1969 Federal Coal Mine Safety Act, laws requiring frequent inspections of both surface and underground mines paved the way for modern legislation and safety regulations.

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