Miners have among the highest occupational mortality and morbidity of any group, so there has long been concern about identifying and reducing the hazards. Pliny described lead poisoning and the hazards of asbestos exposure in the first century of our era. The risks of exposure to toxic minerals such as mercury were described by the 16th century German mineralogist Georgius Agricola (1494–1555). The British chemist Humphry Davy (1778–1829) invented the safety lamp, which reduced the risk of fires and explosions in coal mines. In the early 20th century, dust reduction by water sprays reduced the risk of miner's pneumoconiosis. Caged birds, typically canaries, were used as sentinels until chemical and electronic sensors to detect toxic gases and reduced oxygen supply were developed. Modern mine safety includes specialized engineering equipment and studies, ventilation controls, chemical sensors, ergonomics, and psychosocial factors.
Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.