The focus on safety has become more and more apparent since several recent, major fatalities. Even the government now recognizes how critical it is that they inspect mines, and if necessary, shut them down until the management makes them safe. But there are avenues open to the miner. Unfortunately, getting that check at the end of the week to put food on the table can be more important than blowing the whistle on safety vioilations.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of federal and state regulations that affect various safety requirements at coal mines in West Virginia. The laws differ depending if it’s a surface mine or a deep mine. But the most important safety requirement in West Virginia is to have employers who care about safety more than they care about production. They have got to put safety first, and train their miners in the proper safety requirements to do their job. It’s critically important that management be invested in safety, and that they care about the employee understanding the safety regulations.

In a deep mine there are regulations concerning equipment. What type, how is it to be maintained, what safety features does it have to have? We just recently had a coal miner killed in West Virginia because a company had modified a machine that goes underground, which limited the visibility for the driver, and it wound up crushing a miner.

There are also regulations about the air, the ventilation, and roof bolting. How you move equipment, where people are supposed to be standing when equipment is moved, where they’re not supposed to be standing. There are literally hundreds of regulations that affect all of those safety rules, and the miners need to be well-versed in them, and management needs to be invested in protecting their miners. Same thing for a surface mine.

If there are violations, a worker should always feel free to notify management. There is a chain of command, depending upon how the safety program is set up. You can also go to MSHA directly, the federal folks or the state inspectors. They have hotlines, and you can let them know about safety problems at particular mine, and they are legally bound to investigate that. If you have any questions about anything Scott has talked about today, click on the contact tab at the top of the page or call 855-344-9100.