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Coal mine accidents fewer but still too many fatalities

Workers -- and their families -- on the coal mines in West Virginia might sleep easier knowing that the number of coal mine fatalities in 2016 was the lowest ever. The U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration reported that only 25 deaths were mine-related last year, and only nine of those were coal mine accidents. While authorities may say only 25 died, mineworkers may feel that it is still 25 too many.

The reduced number of fatalities were likely the result of the 2010 disaster at Big Branch that inspired safety vigilance for the mining industry. However, West Virginia coal mines remain the country's most dangerous mines. Under the guidance and encouragement of MSHA, some operators and owners of coal mines have adopted safety protocols that prioritize health and safety programs to protect workers from harm. They endeavor to do regular hazard assessments to identify and repair dangers rather than allowing mineworkers to risk their lives.

Proper training is also imperative, as many injuries -- and even deaths -- occur because operational and safety training procedures are not up to standard. Unaddressed ignorance will continue to lead to workplace illness, injury or death. MSHA say the owners of mining companies, safety inspectors, supervisors, managers and even the mineworkers must commit to personal responsibility and enforcement of workplace safety.

Only when all concerned undertake to prevent coal mine accidents will mine workers and their families have reason to sleep easier. In the meantime, any West Virginia mine worker who suffers injuries on the job -- or families who have lost loved ones in mining accidents -- can pursue financial assistance through the workers' compensation insurance system. Standard benefits will cover medical expenses, and death benefits will cover end-of-life expenses. Financial packages may be awarded to make up for lost wages.

Source: newsandsentinel.com, "Mine Safety: Still room for improvement", Jan. 6, 2017

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