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West Virgina agencies sued for mine safety oversight

Two agencies dealing with the health and safety of miners in West Virginia are under fire for failing to implement certain technology that could save workers' lives. The suit states that the government bodies have not installed proximity detection systems that are essential for preventing workers from being crushed by mining equipment. The lawsuit is being brought by a member of the safety committee from a local mining union, as well as the widow of a miner that was killed by being pinned underneath battery-powered mining machinery.

The 41-page petition states that the law in West Virginia requires miners' health agencies to force coal mines into using the most effective safety equipment available. The lawsuit also states that lawmakers unfairly handed over the creation of safety rules to mining industry representatives by rearranging the board so that industry officials could not be challenged when attempting to block new safety regulations. The petition is part of a project begun by an organization known as Mountain State Justice, which aims to reduce the number of mining accidents in West Virginia.

One of the agencies in question is part of the West Virginia Department of Commerce. This board contains governor-appointed members that have recently failed to implement a number of safety regulations related to legislation that was passed almost two years ago. State law also dictates that the mine safety board is required to review all mining deaths and issue any rules that would prevent any more fatalities of the type. The suit alleges that the board has not done so.

West Virginia has seen 25 mining deaths and over 1,000 injuries cased by mining equipment since 1991. If the suit holds up in court, it may lead to a decrease in the number of injured miners each year. However, the safety board at the state level may need to be restructured in order for more regulations to be passed into law.

Source: The Charleston Gazette, "Lawsuit targets W.Va. inaction on mine safety" Ken Ward Jr., Dec. 20, 2013

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