Coal mining has been a vital part of West Virginia's economy for generations. Many of today's mineworkers are the descendants of those who toiled long ago for the coal that keeps our state running. Technology has improved mine conditions greatly, making it safer than the miners of yesteryear ever could have dreamed. That being said, though, coal mining is still one of the state's - even the country's - most dangerous jobs.
Four men have already lost their lives in mining accidents in 2013, prompting public inquiry and government inspections into the condition of the working environment of the average mineworker. Two men died in accidents involving coal scoops, one after being pinned by a jack from a coal filter, and one after impact from a dislodged part of a loaded supply car. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has declared a "statewide time out" to call attention to mine safety.
The Government In Action
Since mining is such an important part of West Virginia's economic livelihood, there is a dedicated government agency – the Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training – devoted solely to ensuring the safe operation of the more than 50 active, minable coal seams across the state. The OMHST not only regulates and licenses coal operations, but also is the primary agency responsible for investigating on-site accidents affecting operations.
The investigations into the tragic accidents that have already taken lives this year are ongoing, but numerous fines and violations have been issued at nearly every coal operation in the state in recent years. Data released by the OMHST shows that at least one of the fatal accident sites this year has been cited for numerous violations, including several others that could be potentially deadly, like:
- Accumulation of flammable coal dust
- Damaged power cables/improperly grounded electrical equipment
- Insufficient ventilation
- Trash holes filled with combustible materials
- Lack of a proper emergency alarm system
Sadly, no amount of subsequent remedial safety measures will ever bring back the men that have been lost, but improving safety could save lives in the future. Holding mining companies accountable for the negligent and reckless actions that take place in their mines, the "cut corners" that increase profits and the lack of proper safety protocols can also go a long way toward fostering an environment where the health and safety of the workers is paramount, and given emphasis above earning money.
If you have been injured, or you have tragically lost a loved one in a coal mining accident, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options you may have to hold the responsible parties accountable for your losses.