Coal Tattoo


MSHA chief Joe Main today urged coal-mine operators to support a “cultural change” in the industry, with the goal being to reach zero injuries, illnesses and deaths in the nation’s mines.

In a talk to the annual West Virginia Coal Symposium, Main told mine operators:

We should be starting a cultural change, that you have a right to go and work your entire career in a mine and come out as health and free of illness as anybody else.

A miner has the same right to that that anybody who goes to work down the street in an office or at an insurance company does.

Main discussed MSHA’s campaign to end black lung disease and talked a little bit about  the agency’s new “Rules to Live By” program for targeted enforcement of safety rules that most often are found to have been broken in mining deaths. One of two kick-off events for that project, by the way, is scheduled for next Friday here in Charleston.

Among the more interesting things Main discussed was the fact that last year, more coal miners died at U.S. surface mines than at underground mines.

Main also reminded me of a pretty remarkable statistic, given the history of death in the mines: In late 2008 and early 2009, the U.S. coal industry went for more than eight months without an underground miner being killed on the job.  The industry was just four months short of going an entire year without an underground death, Main said.

That is an amazing feat. It’s a testament to how far we’ve come. If we can make it eight months, we can make it those other four.