Coal Mines Safety Levels Improving
According to governmental data, U.S. coal mines have grown safer since the underground explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 miners about 18 months ago. Enforcement of regulations and better training by mining companies are helping to improve the safety of coal mines.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) oversees the nation’s 14,500 mines, including 2,000 coal mines. Joe Main, Assistant Secretary of Labor and head of MSHA said that the “efforts we’re making are having a positive impact on improving mine safety in this country.”
After the mine accident in April of 2010, MSHA was criticized for not closing the mine, and started targeting mines that have a high level of violations or risks. Numerous mines were being shut down until sufficient improvements were made, causing violations to drop 51% since September of 2010 at those targeted mines, according to MSHA.
In comparison to 2010, where 48 coal miners were killed, so far this year, 14 have been killed on the job.
However, there are still opposing views. Spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, Phil Smith, said that while the union believed increased enforcement had caused operators to pay more attention to safety, fewer violations did not necessarily mean mines were getting safer. He says, “There are still many mines out there which are not following the law and appear not to care to do so. The mines weren’t any safer for the 14 coal miners killed thus far this year.”
Several mining companies have advised that they are putting a greater emphasis on safety and that significant management changes have been made. Professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, Larry Grayson, said that “if companies can’t police themselves, the government is going to make them comply with this high level of performance.”
Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, said that he thinks mines are safer due to enforcement and companies reviewing and improving safety systems independently. This effort on improved safety systems and enforcement will continue to decrease violations and fatalities alike.