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Experts Say Coal Mining Accidents Preventable

Tina Robinson3 years ago

Already this year, there have been six fatal coal mine accidents. Just this week two workers were killed in W. Va. after becoming trapped in a mine shaft. Long known as one of the most dangerous jobs, experts say that most accidents are preventable. Instead, according to a U.S. News report, it’s a lack of enforcement that causes many coal mine fatalities.

Compliance Approach to Mine Safety

One of the biggest reasons cited by experts for coal mine accidents is the approach that U.S. safety regulators take towards coal mine safety. Whereas other parts of the world have adopted a risk-management approach, the U.S. still takes a compliance-based approach.

The advantage of a risk-management approach, safety experts say, is that protections are much more customizable instead of “one-size-fits all.” Mary Poulton, a director at the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources explains, ““You identify every single risk, and how risks may be linked together, based on how things might play out and then you put interventions in place for all those risks.”

Mine Owner Accountability

Another red flag is how accountable mine owners and operators are for the safety of their coal mines. In the W. Va. coal mine accident, the Brody Mine No. 1 have been cited for over 180 violations in the past 12 months and placed on a “pattern of violations” list by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Some question why MSHA did not use its authority to seek an injunction against the mine.

Getting workers to comply with safety regulations is also a challenge. Poulton says workers in recent fatal accidents “hadn’t been wearing even the most basic safety equipment.” That revelation points to gaps in both training procedures as well as a culture of complacency. 

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