West Virginia coal mine accidents and safety standards

People who work in the coal mines of West Virginia should get the facts about safety standards and what to do if mining accidents happen.

Coal mining today remains a vital part of the West Virginia economy. Many families have loved ones employed in the state's surface and underground coal mines. This makes it important for both workers and relatives to understand the risks associated with this line of work. Mining disasters can happen in a fraction of a moment and result in very tragic situations.

What can cause coal mining accidents?

Coal mining accidents can be caused by many factors. The negligence of an employer to properly maintain equipment or to provide appropriate procedural training to staff can be among these factors. Additionally, the blatant ignorance of safety guidelines or processes is yet another cause of accidents.

What laws are in place to prevent coal mining accidents?

Over the years, the laws in the United States that govern safety in coal mines have evolved greatly. Mine Safety and Health Administration indicates that the first such piece of legislation was created in 1891. While several additional laws came onto the scene over a course of time to help prevent mine workers from being seriously injured or killed, it was the Coal Act of 1969 that brought about the biggest reform.

For the first time, four yearly inspections were required to take place in each underground coal mine. Surface coal mines were required to have two inspections each year. Additionally, criminal and financial penalties for safety violations were instituted with the Coal Act.

How safe are today's coal mines?

According to information published by the Carrier Journal, safety has improved in U.S. coal mines. Fox Business also notes a declining rate of fatalities from coal mine accidents. Along with a reduced number of deaths have also come a reduced number of people working in West Virginia's coal mines. Data from the MSHA indicates that 119 coal miners lost their lives from 2004 to 2015.

An explosion at a mine operated by Massey Energy in 2010 resulted in multiple fatalities. Dangerous amounts of coal dust, unsafe methane levels and worn equipment were all noted to be factors in this accident. The head of Massey Energy at the time faces a potential federal prison sentence of more than 30 years.

Government oversight of mines strengthened after this incident and includes focused efforts to identify violations of specific natures. The inspections resulted in 42 coal mines being targeted for inspection.

Important information for coal miners and family members

Mining is an inherently dangerous line of work. However, that does not negate the responsibility of mining companies to provide safe work environments for all employees. When accidents happen, victims and loved ones should contact a lawyer for help immediately.

Keywords: coal mine, accident, injury