MSHA’s Joe Main: Recent coal-mining deaths in W.Va. and elsewhere are ‘tragic and unacceptable’

February 20, 2013 by Ken Ward Jr.

This statement was just issued by Joe Main, assistant labor secretary for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration:

Yesterday, the coal industry marked its sixth mining fatality in less than one month. Four of those deaths occurred in West Virginia. Starting Thursday morning, MSHA inspectors, supervisors and managers will travel to coal operations throughout the state to alert miners, mine operators and miners’ representatives about this alarming trend. Our enforcement personnel will be armed with detailed handouts and will talk directly to mine operators and miners, reminding them about the critical need for safe work practices.

Mine operators need to make sure that they are conducting proper mine safety examinations to find and fix hazards, and they need to make sure that miners are properly trained to do the jobs they are assigned, particularly activities not part of their normal routine.

I applaud today’s directive by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who called for a stand down for safety at all coal mines. Also, I have spoken with West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training Director Eugene White, and MSHA and the state have agreed to work together on this effort.

By tomorrow morning, MSHA’s goal is to have a written alert describing these six tragedies — along with best practices for preventing them — on our website and on the desk of every coal mine operator in the country. The industry is coming off two of the safest years in mining in this country. The six deaths that occurred over the last month are tragic and unacceptable, and MSHA will take whatever actions are necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of all our miners.

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