In West Virginia, workers in the coal mining industry face multiple life-threatening risks that are par for the course for mining activities. Despite the industry striving for zero injuries, coal mine accidents continue to cause catastrophic injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Safety authorities maintain that compliance with prescribed safety standards can prevent work-related injuries.
Respiratory protection is crucial because coal dust inhalation is one of the most significant concerns. The lack of protection can lead to an occupational lung disease known as black lung or miner’s lung. Noise is a hazard to which workers adapt over time. However, the damage caused by excessive noise over time can include permanent hearing loss, sleep disturbances and tinnitus, which is a constant ringing the ears. Engineering controls can mitigate this hazard.
Other common hazards include whole-body vibrations in those who work with heavy machinery, which could cause vision impairment, cardiovascular changes, musculoskeletal disorders, and reproductive problems for female workers. The bodies of miners can become distressed and fatigued from exposure to the humidity and heat typical to coal mines — causing a condition called thermal stress. Workers in open-pit mines risk ultraviolet radiation from excessive exposure to sunlight.
Many of the typical mining injuries are progressive and may only become evident after years of exposure to hazards, making claims for compensation challenging to navigate. In other cases, coal mine accidents cause immediate injuries or deaths. Victims in West Virginia usually seek the support and guidance of an attorney with experience in fighting for the rights of injured coal workers to pursue fair compensation.