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New federal regulations could protect West Virginia workers

Many West Virginia workers are involved in the coal industry, and certain changes to federal law might benefit them. Those employees show up to work each day, putting their health at risk to perform the job. A recent report out of Kentucky indicates that at least one congressman has pressing questions about proposed changes to federal law.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr has spoken out against new federal regulations designed to reduce the risk of black lung, an often fatal disease contracted by West Virginia coal miners. It is one of those workplace injuries that manifests over a long period of time, but the injuries are just as debilitating as those suffered in catastrophic accidents. 

The federal government has proposed changes that would require coal companies to increase their monitoring of dust levels in mines. Workers would be required to wear real-time dust level monitors, and if the regulations are passed, companies will have to check dust levels after each shift. These are changes designed to cut down the risk of this occupational disease, which has killed more than 60,000 workers over the last four decades.

While some argue that new regulations would put undue financial stress on coal companies, the unsafe working conditions have never been clearer for those who man the mines. Until regulators come to the rescue with appropriate laws, workers in West Virginia and across the border in Kentucky do have the ability to file workers' compensation claims when struck by black lung and other workplace injuries.

Source: Lexington Herald-Leader, "U.S. Rep. Andy Barr questions need for tougher rules to prevent black lung," Bill Estep, Aug. 22, 2013

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